Nov 02

My Vote, My Voice


I voted by dropping off my ballot at Newburyport City Hall on Oct. 20. It was reported as accepted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Oct. 22. Such is 2020 that I both did AND know these things.

I’m writing today for a couple of reasons:

  1. To get on the record prior to tomorrow (and whatever follows) why I voted how I did.
  2. To share my thoughts for anyone out there who’s still undecided about any of the races on their ballots.

While anyone following me likely knows my personal political leanings, I’ll say that — aside from the vehemence with which I hold some of these opinions — the people on the ballot mattered to me less than ever. That’s because, to me, our choice between belief systems and values is as stark as it’s been in my lifetime.

We often hear that “X election is the most important of our lives.” Usually that’s part of a get-out-the-vote drive by one party or another, one candidate or another. You (and I) take it with a grain of salt.

This time, though, I must concur. Our country is at a precipice, and while tomorrow’s results are unlikely to provide the final determination, they will push us in one of two distinct directions: A) pull us back from that edge for the time being — giving us an opportunity to reset and — perhaps — make necessary change; or B) nudge us further off balance on the edge of a cliff from which a fall may be fatal.

I don’t ask you to agree with all (or any) of my opinions. I merely hope you’ll read and consider them. Here’s to our votes. Here’s to our voices.

I voted for kindness and understanding.

I voted against hatred and willful ignorance.

I voted for compassion for and responsibility to our fellow citizens: patriotism.

I voted against indifference and lack of accountability to society: selfishness.

I voted for democracy.

I voted against authoritarianism.

I voted for equality and tolerance.

I voted against racism, sexism, and homophobia.

I voted for lifting the voices of those who’ve been voiceless for centuries.

I voted against the idea that the demands of those voices should be shrugged off with bogus equivocation — or worse.

I voted for the not-at-all-hard-to-understand idea that Black Lives Matter.

I voted against the idea that folks don’t understand exactly what that phrase means after growing up in this country.

I voted for celebrating both our similarities and our differences in service of becoming more thoughtful and understanding.

I voted against the tired phrase, “I don’t see color,” another equivocation used most by those descended from the people who created, codified, and enforced laws based solely on their perceptions of skin color.

I voted for women’s control of their own bodies and their own destinies.

I voted against the hegemony of toxic masculinity.

I voted for public oversight of law enforcement.

I voted against the militarization of law enforcement.

I voted for reallocating a not-insignificant percentage of the money spent on law enforcement and the military to resources that will better serve and improve our society.

I voted against the phrase “law and order” as a blatantly racist trope designed to make people feel better about their prejudices.

I voted for education as a crucial tool in turning ignorance to enlightenment.

I voted against the continuing destruction of our system of public education.

I voted for a government free of religion and the citizenry’s freedom from religion as legal directive — the initial idea behind its mention in the First Amendment.

I voted against any and all religions having sway over the laws enacted by and applied against any segment of our citizenry.

I voted for the work of journalists to hold those in power to account.

I voted against the phrase “fake news” and the demonization of the fourth estate.

I voted for belief in science and expertise.

I voted against belief in conspiracy theories.

I voted for minor inconvenience over illness and death.

I voted against the idea that being asked to wear a mask in service to public safety for a couple hours a week is akin to “slavery,” “authoritarianism,” or other inanities.

I voted for my business, which will only thrive again if science and public health come first.

I voted against sacrificing one more life in supposed service to the economy.

I voted for public elections and the rights of every citizen to take part.

I voted against voter suppression and voter intimidation.

I voted for immediate action on the existential issue of climate change.

I voted against the powers that continue to avoid facing this challenge — and appear ready to delay — until it’s too late.

I voted for an opportunity to return some semblance of truth and sanity to power.

I voted against lying, narcissism, and lunacy.

I voted for reality.

I voted against disinformation.

I voted for a 21st century America devoted to all the things I wrote of above.

I voted against a return to the mythical “good old days.”

I voted for peace.

I voted against violence.

I voted for my wife, my son, my family, my future … your future.

Aug 24

Countdown to College Football: Throwing It Back to 2004 … and 1931

With kickoff of the 2013 college football season less than a week away, I’ve been spending much of my downtime researching the Pac-12 and all of USC’s opponents for my regular in-season gig over at You can expect to see my annual Pac-12 preview there sometime in the next 72 hours or so, and a preview of next Thursday’s Trojan opener at Hawaii will likely go live there next Wednesday.

I’ve written a lot of football content since 2000, but was reminded of one very special story earlier this summer by some friends from my other professional life. About nine years ago, brothers Joel and Loren Crannell of Moulton Logistics introduced me to one of their family’s elders, a gentleman named Chuck Stump. Mr. Stump passed away last month after one heck of a life. And, as part of that life, he’d acquired a couple of pieces of simply incredible USC memorabilia. During the summer of 2004, at a lunch in the San Fernando Valley, I met Stump, heard his wonderful story and got to see these incredible pieces.

With Stump’s recent passing — and college football just around the corner — I felt it would be great to re-post the story that originally ran on on August 6, 2004. Wherever you are today, Mr. Stump, thank you for sharing your great story. And to Joel and Loren: thanks for the opportunity to meet such a wonderful guy.

Honoring Old Champions Before the Latest Trojan Kickoff

Before Chuck Stump became a World War II paratrooper, he loved USC football — and he’s got the goods to prove it!

Chuck Stump holds his beloved 1932 Rose Bowl game ball in 2004.

Chuck Stump holds his beloved 1932 Rose Bowl game ball in 2004.

“As a young boy, I found it fascinating. They were like true superheroes back then — just like Flash Gordon or Prince Valiant or the Roman and Greek warriors we heard about in school,” says Charles “Chuck” Stump, while clutching a USC game ball from the 1932 Rose Bowl, in which the Trojans upended Tulane, 21-12, to win the school’s second national title. “In that era of the late 1920s through the 1930s, I went with my dad Clark to every game we could down at the Coliseum.”

The octogenarian, who has lived in the San Fernando Valley for more than six decades now, went on to become a hero in his own right — a member of the 11th Airborne from 1943-47. “We were among the first occupation troops in Japan,” Stump says, downplaying his battle wounds that he says were “field dressed” before he went immediately back to work. “I jumped into New Guinea, Luzon and many other areas. We were training for the invasion of Japan before the A-bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

But it was those memories of USC football as a youngster that helped form Stump’s vision of heroism. And, not only does Stump still have that game ball, with a number of autographs from famed Trojans of the day, he also still owns an original version of the “Howard Jones All-American Football” board game, signed by Jones and a couple of Trojan standouts.

“The game is totally different from today’s football,” Stump says, pointing out just how far football has come from the days of running back Gus Shaver to the aerial attack of Matt Leinart. “It’s all the old style plays — all running plays. Passing plays all have a very low chance of success in this game.”

Stump credits his aunt, Laura Hadlock, who worked for the Los Angeles City Parks Department for getting his father access to game tickets. “We had every program from all the games we went to. We met the big players of that era, like Cotton Warburton, and I also met Howard Jones,” Stump adds. “We also went to the ’32 Olympics when they were at the Coliseum. Unfortunately, when I went into the war, my mom was against me joining. While I was gone, she gave away most of the things I had collected from those games.”

Still, his cousin, Frank Hadlock, had access to some USC memorabilia and found the game ball and board game to give to Stump. The ball, which had begun to deteriorate, needed some help. “My dad went over the autographs in India ink, took out the rotted bladder and packed it with paper, and then shellacked the ball to preserve it,”

That football is a truly wondrous piece of memorabilia, featuring hand-written scores of each game in USC’s 10-1 1931 national title season, an etched interlocking “SC” logo, and the autographs of Trojan greats like Orv Mohler, Johnny Baker, Gus Shaver and Tay Brown. The archaic board game is still in excellent condition, considering it’s made of cardboard and many of the game pieces are wood.

The 1931 Trojan team, which featured All-Americans Baker, Shaver, Stan Williamson and Erny Pinckert, lost its opening game to St. Mary’s, 13-7, before running off 10 consecutive victories, including shutouts of Oregon State, Oregon, California, Stanford, Montana and Georgia. However, its most memorable triumph was a see-to-believe 16-14 comeback victory over Notre Dame in South Bend on Nov. 21.

Trailing 14-0 to begin the fourth quarter, Mohler’s passing and Shaver’s running narrowed the Irish lead to 14-13, before Baker’s 33-yard field goal with a minute to play sealed a Trojan victory that made national headlines. When the USC team returned to Los Angeles via train, a crowd estimated at 300,000 welcomed the Trojans with a parade through downtown Los Angeles.

It was that kind of passion that Clark and Chuck Stump shared for USC football. When the younger Stump went off to war, his father kept him in touch with Trojan football. “My dad would listen to the games on the radio and chart all the plays for me,” Stump contends. “He used charting paper from the power plants he worked at, and would send me the game charts wherever I was based.”

After returning home and settling down in Van Nuys, Stump started his own trucking company for a time, before becoming a driver. He lost interest in college sports as time went on, citing the down era at USC in the 1940s and 1950s, and excessive changes of coaches and players. “There was just too much jumping around for me,” Stump says. “Back when I was going, you knew Jones would be the coach and the players would be a certain type of man. Things changed and I lost touch.”

Still, Stump revels in those childhood memories of cardinal and gold afternoons in the Coliseum with his father. And the 72-year old football is the greatest reminder of those times for him.

For the rest of us, as we close in on the start of another season of USC football, that football and a story like Chuck Stump’s are a reminder of just how deeply felt and long-lasting is the Trojan tradition.

(Originally published August 6, 2004 on

Apr 29

It Was 20 Years Ago Today …

In the spring of 1992, I was finishing my first year at USC (having transferred from Cal State Fullerton the previous fall).

Specifically, however, on Wednesday, April 29, 1992, I worked at my job as a teller at the First Interstate Bank branch in Claremont, Calif. Why Claremont? Well, my college girlfriend attended one of the Claremont Colleges, and though I had an off-campus apartment at the corner of Severance and Adams near the USC campus, I tended to spend a lot of time with her.

When I left my shift that afternoon, I headed over to her dorm to study for my first final of the spring semester, which was scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday morning. The plan was to wait for traffic to die down and then head out to USC that evening to grab a decent night’s sleep before the test.

As most of you know, that plan was torn to shreds by 12 jurors in a Simi Valley courtroom and the enraged reaction of thousands of Los Angeles residents — that April 29 will forever be known as the first day of the 1992 L.A. Riots.


When I arrived at the dorm, many of the young women who lived there were watching a TV in a rec room, as the local news covered initial reactions to the late afternoon verdict. Many of us in the room were as stunned as those who were being interviewed on TV. As the coverage transitioned to various outbreaks of protest, many of us in the room voiced our agreement with those protests. Then, the helicopters started flying over Florence and Normandie, and everything changed. Reginald Denny … Damian “Football” Williams … burning, burning, burning. And you knew this could really get out of hand.

The front page of the April 30, 1992 edition of the L.A. Times.

As we moved into my girlfriend’s room to continue watching the news coverage across all channels, things got more and more violent, as the protests moved from voice to action. And, once the idea of public mayhem became conceivable, it sure didn’t hurt that many people who lived outside the confines of the law to begin with took advantage of the situation and exacerbated things even further. If you were alive and in Southern California during this time, you know how it made you feel, you know who you blame, you know what you think, so I won’t preach to you. But the truth of the L.A. Riots — why they happened, why they were so out of control, who was to blame, what’s changed since — is obviously more multifaceted than simple statements like “racist cops beat black man and walk” or “decades of police brutality come home to roost” or “local criminals take advantage of widespread lawlessness to wreak havoc on city.”

What I will tell you is that I was still trying to study for that final that night, all while watching the TV coverage and listening to the third game of the Lakers’ playoff series against the Portland Trailblazers on my Walkman, since there was no cable TV in the dorm rooms. The game was taking place inside the Great Western Forum in Inglewood (near the epicenter of the riots). Blissfully unaware of what was occurring outside (in an era before cell phones — let alone smartphones and social media), fans watched the underdog Lakers upset the Blazers in overtime (remember, this was the spring after Magic Johnson retired after testing HIV positive) to extend a first-round series. The only clue as to what was happening, I recall, was late in the fourth quarter, when legendary Laker announcer Chick Hearn told listeners/viewers that the Forum message board was flashing that no traffic after the game would be allowed to head east toward the 110 freeway. “All traffic must head west toward the 405. That’s a strange message, but I am only reporting what I see,” I remember Hearn saying. The dissonance between listening to that game and keeping an eye on the violence tearing apart the city on television was, suffice it to say, shocking.

During all of this violence, the news had reported that the USC campus was unscathed by rioters, that the area just around the campus was still reasonably quiet in the center of this storm. And, by 10:30 p.m., there was no announcement from the school on a postponement of finals that were scheduled for Thursday. Nor by 11:30 … or 12:30 a.m. Common sense told me that there was no way the school could function normally on Thursday, but I wasn’t going to risk a grade. So I tried going to sleep, but to no avail with what was happening on TV. By 4 a.m., I tried calling the general phone number for campus to see if any announcement had been made — school closure announcements had been part of the news coverage all night, but there was still no word from USC — but got no answer. I truly had no choice but to get in my car and drive straight toward the campus.

The corner of Florence and Normandie near sundown on April 29, 1992.

At about 5:20 a.m., I had just passed the 710 freeway, driving west on the 10, when a reporter on KFWB finally said those words I’d been waiting so long for: “USC has announced that final exams scheduled for today and Friday are postponed indefinitely.” While definitely irritated that the announcement had come only at that moment, what I actually really was at that moment was exhausted. So, I made a decision that could have been one of the worst I’d ever made, but instead turned out only to be one of the most interesting: I just wanted to go to sleep and I was about 10-12 minutes away from my apartment building’s underground parking garage and my bed. I chose to drive into the middle of the L.A. Riots.


I exited the freeway at Hoover. At the traffic signal, there was (and is again today) a mini-mall with an auto stereo store as it’s hub. The entire center was ablaze. There was a lone LAFD firefighter trying to fight it with a garden hose — while most remember how many in the LAPD basically threw up their hands at the rioters in a dereliction of duty,  fewer recall the undermanned LAFD trying valiantly to fight hundreds of fires. I could feel the heat from the blaze through my car window. I turned and headed south on Hoover as fast as I could, reaching the light at Adams to find the Pizza Hut on the corner had turned to a pile of smoldering ashes. I turned left and, less than a block later, reached my apartment, parking my car underground and taking the elevator to my place. I crashed on my bed and didn’t wake up for five hours.

When I arose and flipped on the TV, I saw that looting had — for the most part — taken the place of violence. The rioters had simply added a step to their previous activities: they were now taking everything they could out of these stores before setting them on fire. Still, around my apartment, things were quiet. There was no traffic on the streets, and almost no people to be found anywhere. I was starving and made, in retrospect, another odd decision: I called USC to find out if any of the dining options on campus were open. I was told by the operator that EVK was open, but that I’d need my USC ID to be allowed on campus. Fine! I need to eat! I mean, sure, less than 24 hours before, I’d watched Reginald Denny get pulled out of a semi by a mob and have his head caved in. But I’d be fine driving a few blocks to USC in my uber-secure Hyundai Excel. (I am only now realizing how silly these choices were, but I hope they make for an entertaining story)

I got to campus (which was basically an armed fortress at that point, with most driveway gates closed and USC’s security team — known on campus as DPS — on patrol at each walking entrance) and to EVK, parking at a meter right outside. If you went to USC in the early 1990s, you know just how rare that opportunity was! As I walked into the dining hall, I turned and saw what I now recall as an almost cartoonish scene, reminiscent of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, where he’s playing baseball against the Giants, who are hitting him so hard that they’re basically going around the bases in a conga line, one after another. Well, what looked like a conga line of parents in BMWs and Mercedeses were lined up outside of the entrance to the dorm, as one by one, girls would come running out of the front door with bags, throw them into the car, dive in and speed away.

After eating, I finally decided I might want to hit the road back to the safer confines of Claremont, myself. Heading up Hoover back to the freeway, that ashen former Pizza Hut was now at the center of a looting maelstrom. The minimall surrounding the Pizza Hut was home to a Payless Shoe Source and other small businesses. Dozens of people were running in and out of Payless, carting boxes of (free) $11 shoes with them. As I headed north on Hoover past the light at Adams, there was a family of four walking across the street, each member carrying at least three boxes, with the father (I can only assume) having at least four boxes stacked on each shoulder. Apparently, in whatever world they were living in at that moment, I was supposed to stop for them as they jaywalked their children who were learning how to steal things. They were stunned as I sped past them, forcing them to stop quickly — and even to drop a couple boxes of shoes in the middle of Hoover. But there was no way in hell — despite my previous choices — that I was stopping before I was on that freeway and headed out of town.

By Friday, the newspaper's coverage had caught up with the news.

Once I got up on the 10, I saw a stunning scene on a brilliantly sunny Thursday: plumes of smoke from burning buildings in every direction. It looked like what I imagined a war zone would look like. 40 minutes later, I was back in Claremont, safely watching on television as the city unraveled even further. My main concern at that point was that my girlfriend’s family — who lived on the edges of Hancock Park, near Koreatown — was safe, and that the USC campus would remain unharmed.


My girlfriend and I returned to Los Angeles on Sunday to check in on her mother and step-father. We exited the 101 at Vermont and dropped down to 3rd Street, heading west. The destruction along that stretch between Vermont and Western was indescribable. I remember being so embarrassed for L.A., a city I love, that is my home. Those days of violence and lawlessness made it so easy for those media outlets across America that like to find things to hate about my city to mock it, flog it, run it down. And, in this case, with how broken the city clearly was (no matter who was to blame), there was no way to argue against it.

One light shining in the darkness was the fact that not only was USC’s campus unharmed, but that many of those who lived in the community around it rallied to make sure it went unharmed. USC’s investment in its local community —  both financially and emotionally — is well known among those affiliated with the school. But to see the respect it engendered in this worst of times was rewarding. And to see the community and the school continuing and expanding that relationship two decades into the future is even more enjoyable. While those not affiliated with USC find it easy to mock the school’s location — often in lazy, ill-informed, racially-coded language — those of us who are Trojans or have some connection with the university understand how close-knit the relationship between the university and the community is.

Twenty years on, the L.A. Riots remain a defining moment in my life and in the lives of many Angelenos. While our city is, by no means, perfect, I like to believe it’s improved in the years since. And, while it would be dimwitted to say something like this could never happen again, you hope that we’re better equipped to handle the types of flashpoints that could cause another bout of civil unrest.

Rodney King's famous plea made the cover of the next week's Time.

If you’re interested in reading more takes on the anniversary of the riots, here are some links to a few of the better stories I’ve read this week:

Christopher Wallace in The Atlantic

Hector Tobar on George Ramos and East L.A. (This one hit home when I read it yesterday. Ramos was my news reporting teacher in spring 1992, one of the best teachers I had at USC. If you had Ramos in J-school at USC, you know how much he hated bullshit and loved L.A. You also know that you covered a community beat during your semester with him. I’m still very proud to say that he told me late that semester that he assigned me to Compton because he thought I was up to the challenge.)

Patt Morrison in the L.A. Times

Photographer Kirk McCoy’s “then-and-now” photo essay in the L.A. Times

Two Gang Members Recall the Riots, as part of the Daily Beast’s excellent set of coverage.