CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

This tailgate happens to come with a UCLA football game attached

Columnist Chris Erskine throws a lawn party at first regular-season Bruins game on a Friday at the Rose Bowl. Who can go into the game when there are such things as O.J. Simpson to discuss?

About 1:17 p.m. on a Friday, fall weather finally arrived — rode in on the jet stream, fortunately, because if you have ever tried to get anywhere in L.A. on a Friday afternoon, a car is the last vessel you'd want to use. Half the attendees at our tailgate party arrived by bicycle, the only mode of transit that seems to work in this town anymore.

The lack of an NFL franchise makes me feel deprived and fortunate all at once. Deprived because there is no such thing as too much football. Fortunate for not having to witness the usual civic extortion inherent in acquiring a pro team. Apparently, the NFL is the only thing this town won't sleep with.

Of all things, right?

But there are two great college programs to pick from. With blood ties to neither, I feel able to appreciate both. Oh I know, that's a double life, like being a conservative and a liberal, or a Parisian and a Portuguese. But that's the life I choose.

I spent Saturday afternoon, for instance, heckling Stanford fans down at the Ralph's as they filled their shopping carts with overpriced Belgian beer before the USC game. Totally got into their overstuffed heads.

And Friday, I hosted a UCLA tailgate at the Rose Bowl. Note there is nothing more metaphorical than football — the funny bounces, the territorial push and pull, the way time races by, especially during a tailgate party. Unlike games, I've never been to a tailgate that went on too long.

In football, the reception comes before the wedding, on great expanses of perfect lawn. On Friday night, we tailgated on Brookside's fourth fairway — near a trap (more metaphor). Under a full moon, the golf course seemed to be singing.

The Washington game was historic — the first regular-season Bruins game ever on a Friday at the Rose Bowl. It seemed to go fine, though there was that issue with the traffic. There are fans who left the Westside at 1 p.m. Friday who are just this minute arriving in Pasadena. People have sailed around the world in less time.

My buddy Siskin somehow made it in from the Westside, then got stopped while riding a borrowed bicycle through the golf course at halftime by security folks who wondered why he wasn't at the game, like other fans, who actually go to the game when they go to a game.

Siskin explained he had no interest in the game, just came over to hang out on a crisp autumn evening. Oddly, security let him go.

Also in attendance was our friend Kathleen, who had never been to a football game. That would be understandable if she were 4, but she's a little north of 40, and to have never attended a game her entire life is a quirky detail that drew gasps at the tailgate, as if she'd confessed to once winning the Booker Prize or carrying Satan's baby.

At least she dressed well, in a sweater, ski pants and a fuzzy panda hat that made her look 4 again. Good thing, for by game time the temperature was brutal, hovering in the mid-60s.

Through all this, the blimp lumbered above the bonfires and grills of the arroyo in a fourth dimension. It moved like a manatee, chattering mechanically, and peeking into the glowing Rose Bowl.

Yep, the game had started, yet I couldn't seem to pull away. A tailgate isn't just a party, it's more visceral — a fireside chat. I'm completely hooked on these stupid things. Plus, I was holding a sandwich the size of a nose tackle.

The third quarter came and went, and we made no move toward the stadium. The next day, there were dozens of games on TV, all of which you could see better than from even the best seat at the Rose Bowl.

Better this tailgate, with old friends and old stories. One guy, Eugene, was doing a standup bit about when he was a news director during the O.J. Simpson chase. Remember those days? Simpson did nothing wrong yet ran from the cops as if the game clock were winding down. That was on a Friday too.

"So the LAPD calls to ask if our helicopter can go down to the tree line so they can see if Juice is driving," he says.

With that, the TV copter peeled off to refuel.

Maybe football isn't a metaphor for life. Maybe life is a metaphor for football.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter: @erskinetimes

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