A fan sat grinning in the first row at the Coliseum, Roosevelt High red and yellow paint across his cheeks, holding up a small sheet of cardstock with six words scrawled in pen.


You really didn’t need to Friday night. You just needed to be there to soak in the grandest East L.A. Classic in its centuries-long history.

To see the stands light up with the twinkle of thousands of cellphone lights.

To hear the booming chants of “East L-A” or “Boy-le Heights” not cheering on just a team, but a group of young men representing the heart of a storied community.

To feel the bass of a Black Eyed Peas halftime performance merging with the triumphant trumpets of the school bands, thumping through your toes, rattling your ribcage and shivering your soul.

The teams, the bands, the Peas, the fans — they painted a beautiful tapestry together, elevating a timeless tradition of Chicano pride and cultural history to a never-before-seen scale in a 16-8 Garfield win over Roosevelt. It was the most incredible game I’ve covered in my young career, leaving me and plenty others awestruck.

“That was one of the greatest athletic events I’ve ever attended,” said CIF executive director Ron Nocetti, who has seen quite a few in his day.

Even an hour before the varsity game kicked off, any sight of a red-and-gold or red-white-and-blue helmet was met with raucous cheers and corresponding boos. The stands bounced to Bad Bunny’s “Tití Me Preguntó” and Nio García’s “Te Boté,” a Garfield DJ urging the visiting-side crowd to get louder than Roosevelt’s.

Sure, those were sights typical of the Classic when played at East Los Angeles College. But the Coliseum brought a different atmosphere.

By Wednesday, 27,000 tickets had been sold, proceeds Coliseum president George Pla said would go in full toward the Roosevelt and Garfield athletic budgets — estimating about $250,000 for each school.

“I think here, since it’s bigger and it’s at a stadium where a lot of legends played, I think it’s going to bring out more people from the community,” Roosevelt senior Jared Andrade said.

He was correct. By halftime, first levels on both sides were nearly full, a crowd Pla estimated was more than 30,000.

That’s when the Coliseum went dark and the strobes went off, the Black Eyed Peas booming from the peristyle. Over the iconic torch at the Coliseum, an assembly of floating drones flashed colored lights that sketched the faces of each member of the group high into the Los Angeles sky as they performed.

Read more at LATimes.com.