From the time I understood that I had to pick sides, I lined up in UCLA’s corner of instead of USC’s. Whether the notion came from my dad, our family friends or from watching TV, the message was clear that you rooted for one and against the other. There was no middle ground.
I don’t know why I liked UCLA then. Maybe it was because Gary Beban won the Heisman Trophy. Or perhaps it was because our neighbor went to UCLA. But at 8 years old, it was probably because I liked powder blue and gold much better than cardinal and goldenrod.
If you’ve read my blog or Facebook postings, then you know I root for the Bruins still today. If I’ve learned anything about myself, it’s that I’m loyal to my teams (unless their sinister owner moves them to St. Louis). I’m definitely not one to jump ship, no matter how agonizing the experience may be.
Unfortunately, rooting for the Bruins against USC has been particularly painful lately. For most of the years Pete Carroll coached the Trojans, I expected USC to win, so I didn’t let my emotions get the better of me. Before that, UCLA won eight years in a row, so the outcome was just as predictable. But recently, despite their misfortunes, I’ve been especially devoted to the Bruins, because Richard Brehaut has been their quarterback the past two years, including most of this season as the starter. Even though I didn’t go to school there, I’ve thrown myself headfirst into being an avid fan once again, complete with season tickets and hours of pregame tailgate festivities. Moreover, my passion has brought overwhelming joy when the team has done well, and less than desirable emotions when they don’t. I wasn’t a good guy to be around when the rival Trojans won this year’s annual cross-town battle. Of course, I wasn’t the only one, as emotions erupted before, during and after the game all around Rose Bowl.
As hard as this is to believe, I love USC.
Okay, maybe not on the football field, but my allegiance to the university is true.
As much as I wanted UCLA to win last week, I wish equally hard for my son Sam to have the same opportunity that I had, and that’s to go to USC.
I contend to this day that getting my master’s degree at USC was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. It was a great education and afforded me remarkable experiences and opportunities, not only while I was in school, but in the many years that have followed.
For the better part of the past year, Beth and I have taken Sam on numerous college campus tours to let him figure out where he wants to go. When he and I visited USC and UCLA on the same day last spring, there was no comparison. Both campuses are beautiful, but there was a definite “connection” at USC that was missing at UCLA. We both felt it. I could sense he grasped the magic that I knew when I went there. It was obvious that day that Sam knew where he wanted to go to school next fall. Heck, I wanted to go back.
I can’t figure it out… I really do feel a strong affection for USC, but you’ll never catch me wearing Trojan colors or uttering “Fight On!” Give me the Eight Clap any day. I was a UCLA fan before I was a USC student.
Sam and I have made a couple of return visits to USC, and his feelings haven’t changed. Neither have mine. Now, of course, we have to hope he can get in, and then figure out how to pay for it. But those things worked out when I went there, and I’m confident they will again for him.
He doesn’t seem to be enamored with Heritage Hall and the athletic history at USC, but it’s impossible to ignore. We navigated our way to the sports information office to say hello to Tim Tessalone, who was busy chatting with an older guy who still looked to be in pretty good shape. Ironically, it was Sam Dickerson, the wide receiver who caught the game-winning touchdown for the Trojans in their 14-12 victory over UCLA back in 1969. I was only 10, but I remember the catch in “Sam’s Corner.” That one still hurts, too.
If he’s accepted, our Sam’s biggest problem will be dealing with his brother, who is a true-blue Bruin fan, and will never understand the appeal of USC. I still don’t think he’s fully accepted Sam going to Claremont High instead of Upland, which is Sid’s alma mater. Claremont was a better fit for Sam, just as Upland was right for Sid. Sid’s as loyal of a person as there is, and he’s stubborn with his convictions. This won’t sit well with him if it happens, but the opportunity would be foolish to ignore, if Sam is fortunate to be accepted and the other pieces fall into place. But it’s probably a longshot.
If it happens, it won’t go over well with my UCLA friends, either, but I think they’ll understand. After all, my good friend Jim Moore married into a USC family, and I am reasonably sure he still roots for the Bruins over the Trojans. In truth, there is probably nothing in the world Jim hates more than USC, even though two of Andi’s brothers went there. Jerry Shaw – one of the football-playing Shaw brothers from Claremont – earned three Rose Bowl rings playing rover-back for the Trojans during the late 1960s. And Dennis Shaw went to USC but transferred to San Diego State because John McKay thought Dennis was too big to play quarterback. Dennis did okay as an Aztec QB, and was the Rookie of the Year with the Buffalo Bills. Nevertheless, Andi bleeds blue and gold.
I wish picking sides in this rivalry could be as easy as rooting for both Southern California baseball teams at the same time. It’s much easier to like both the Dodgers and Angels.
But it doesn’t work that way with college football – at least USC vs. UCLA, and I'll continue to keep my loyalties. I’ve just resigned myself to being a walking contradiction.