Sunday, October 22, 2006

USC Post-Bye: Perspective

A mid-season bye is a very good thing. Of course, it gives USC Football a chance to rest, practice and recruit. But a bye also gives us regular Trojans a chance to run some errands or catch up on a few household chores left sitting since August.

A bye also lets us sit back – without the stress of our own game to worry about – and read a few more blogs and watch a few more games, all of which allow us to gain some perspective on things.

Certainly, this was true yesterday. We got to see that perhaps our “close” wins over U-Dub and Wazzu didn’t tell us everything we thought we were hearing. Maybe Cal’s OT escape from a Stanback-less Huskies and Oregon’s 11-point loss in the Palouse will put USC’s performance in better perspective.

Likewise, the USC “Rival Bowl” in South Bend showed us that perhaps ugla may actually have a good defense, albeit not quite good enough to beat the “Irish.” Or maybe it told us that the Domers are still not the swiftest afoot, regardless of how high their grass grows.

No doubt, John L. Smith got a huge dose of perspective after his Spartans’ record 35-point comeback win. Rutgers beating Pitt? Not so much.

I just hope that after a stress-free bye week, Trojans will remain calm when we see Michigan at No. 2 in the just released BCS rankings. Hopefully, we’ll all have enough perspective to remember that the Wolverines play current No.1 Ohio State, which means one of them will be eliminated from the BCS championship game by mid-November.

Maybe we should share some of our perspective with Auburn, which now finds itself behind West Virginia. LOL.

Still, the thing I read last night that brought it all together was a one-time blog post that really had nothing to do with college football, even though it showed up on It was a post on Truthdig by Kevin Tillman, Pat Tillman’s younger brother who served as an Army Ranger with Pat in Iraq.

To be honest, I never liked Pat Tillman much. In the mid-‘90s when USC was struggling, Tillman was part of that 11-1 Jake Plummer ASU team that could have won a national championship, if not for a last minute 20-17 loss to Ohio State in the ‘97 Rose Bowl. In the NFL, he was one of those hustling white guys that all the commentators seem to like for no other reason than he was a hustling white guy. And when he volunteered to join the Army rather than sign a new multi-million-dollar contract with the Cardinals, it seemed more like a self-absorbed stunt than a noble thing to do.

But the more I read about why he did what he did, and the more I read about how he supposedly lived his life, the more I understand why he went to Iraq and the meaning he was trying to make for himself. Whether we agree with it all or not, I say we should certainly respect it.

So, when I read that Kevin Tillman was making a statement for the first time since his brother’s death in Iraq, I figured it would be worth the read. I was right. Regardless of your political point of view, it’s powerful stuff. Here’s a sample (ellipses in brackets are mine):
It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we got out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice: […]

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated. […]

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

How’s that for perspective?

Perhaps it’s too much for a sports blog, but if what Kevin Tillman is trying to tell us has anything at all to do with our freedom to experience and enjoy USC Football, then it certainly is relevant here.

Come November, let’s take care of what we love. Fight On!

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