We’ve stated a few times this week that we’re disappointed with the condition of this “rivalry.” It’s so pathetic these days that even their “nation” helps to make our case for us.
Still, there is one thing we should make perfectly clear: Even though we may not recognize this “rivalry” anymore, we do hate them.
All Trojans share valid reasons for this hate, but each of us has specific reasons to hate, as well. These individual reasons are borne out of personal experience, perhaps a single moment in our lives when the hate was consciously confirmed and burned into our hearts so that it remains in our cardinal and gold blood for the rest of our lives. That’s right … I’m talking real hate.
For me that moment happened 20 years ago, when our beloved Trojans met that other team in the Rose Bowl. It was the first time I had ever been to a USC Football game in Pasadena, and it was a horrendous experience.
Somehow we ended up with incredibly horrible seats, two rows up right behind the goal post. If you’ve ever tried to watch a football game from low end zone seats, you know it’s damn near impossible. With no perspective or angle on the forward (or backward) progress of the ball, all we could see on the field was a frenzy of cardinal red, white, gold, and baby blue colliding and shuffling in and out from the sidelines. Even worse, we were at the opposite end from the USC student section, which meant no close up view of the Song Girls. Like I said … horrendous.
Actually, one thing we did see was the wide holes through which Gaston Green was running for what seemed like first down, after first down, after first down. We had to listen to the public address announcer tell us the yard line to which the first down markers were being moved. But, we could see very clearly, by the sheer size of the holes at the line of scrimmage, why everyone dressed in light blue was cheering so loudly. Like I said … horrendous.
As for my hate, I could feel it welling up in my chest as the other team scored touchdown after touchdown in the first half. The score was 24-0, while the baby blue crowd became louder and more obnoxious, feeding off the body language of their players on the field, who seemed to grow more arrogant and cocky by the minute.
I saw their head coach Terry Donahue, posing like he was actually in charge as he walked up and down his sideline without a headset. I heard that second-hand fight song over and over again. I saw their mascot as he walked behind the end zone, making a “zero” sign with one paw and pointing with the other paw at me in my USC sweatshirt. I heard the “eight-clap” … and I seethed.
And then it happened: Their team had the ball somewhere around mid-field. Again, we couldn’t see exactly where the ball was, but they were certainly out of field goal range. So, with just a few seconds left in the half and a 24-point lead, we thought their team would take a knee or call a running play between the tackles, which was the respectful thing to do. Needless to say, I know better now …
Expecting to see the referee blow the play dead after yet another confusing scrum of bodies colliding against each other, we caught a glimpse of their quarterback Matt Stevens dropping back to pass. “What the hell are they doing?” Then, out of the scrum like a grenade flung out of a bunker, we saw the football high in the air and coming down toward us.
It was like a movie cliché when a few seconds are stretched into slow motion as someone is about to be killed, “Nooooooooo …” USC defenders, including all-American safety Tim McDonald, went up to knock the ball away, but they missed as it was caught by the other team. TOUCHDOWN!
McDonald lay emotionally crushed, face down in the end zone. The baby blue crowd was at its loudest, most obnoxious peak as the second-hand fight song played yet again, followed by yet another “eight-clap.” Donahue celebrated as if there wasn’t anything wrong or insulting about the play he just called (or simply witnessed) … and running along the back of the end zone, holding the football in the air was the player who caught it. As he turned toward the sideline, I saw the name on his back: DORRELL.
This play, this assault against the Trojans, was the only thing we saw clearly that day, as if the location of our seats was meant to show me the crime up close, so that I would never forget it. It was as if the College Football Gods were teaching me a lesson: “USC Must Hate UCLA. And don’t ever forget it.”
Needless to say, I have never forgotten. Sure, I was born a member of the Trojan Family, and I knew I was supposed to hate the other team. But at that moment, when Karl Dorrell caught that pass – that merciless, arrogant, classless affront to USC – the hate did indeed burn itself into my heart where it will remain for the rest of my life.
Now, 20 years later we can talk about how this rivalry has become a “rivalry.” We can talk about how USC Football has regained is rightful place on a national level under Pete Carroll, and then some. And, if you believe in karma, we can talk about how Dorrell should know that what comes around goes around, after 66-19 last year and 0-3 versus USC, as head coach of his alma mater.
But, in terms of our hate for them, none of this really matters. I know this because I learned my lesson from the College Football Gods that day in Pasadena.
No matter what happens for the rest of my life, I hate UCLA.
WE ARE SC!