Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Life As A Trojan
By Zach

Editor's Note: As you may or may not know Sportszilla recently implemented a new feature, the guest column. Every so often, we'll have friends, colleagues, or whomever write a piece for the site on whatever catches their fancy in the world of sports. Today on Sportszilla we're very fortunate to have my high school buddy, as well as the writer for the brilliant (in my mind anyway) and late web comic No-Name Comics, Ben Gigli finishing up our allotment of guest columns for the day.

I live my life in one of the golden cradles of college football. Not that halfway house for itinerant drunks in South Bend, and certainly nowhere near the Mason-Dixon Line. I reside in the heart of the glitz, where George Lucas and Snoop Dogg on the sidelines are just as likely as a three Heismans and three national championships are in four scant years. I’m Trojan, go ahead and hate me, everyone else does.

I was asked by my compatriot from across the continent, Zach Geballe, to discuss what it’s currently like here on our cozy little campus, tucked into the smoggy urban expanse of downtown LA. All in all, it hasn’t really changed in the last two years. What’s hard for me to conceive of is it being any different.

I know this sounds like an absurd cliché, but expecting to win has become the norm at SC. Most of the undergraduate student body have only been here for a single loss. Finishing my fourth year here at SC, I have watched the Trojans lose a total of 4 times. We’re spoiled, utterly and completely spoiled. To illustrate this point let me tell you a story. During the Arizona State game a friend from Georgia, Andrew, was visiting. As ASU tallied up 21 points in the first half to USC’s pitiful 3, we, the USC faithful, loudly began to freak out. During half time as I wildly chain smoked in the front yard and paced like a caged lion, Andrew came out asked me what was up. I looked at him crazy eyed, half drunk, contemplating life with a loss and said, almost shouting “We’re really behind right now, we can’t seem to contain them or score.” Andrew, like some sort of SEC Buddha looked at me serenely, “You guys are going to win, y’all just have gotten far too used to demolishing teams before the first quarter is even over. Relax.”

Andrew was right, both about the game and in a more philosophical sense. As fans our perspective is completely out of whack. We lose our minds in a game that is even remotely close, but we can hardly make ourselves care during a normal game. The average game now rarely excites most USC fans. The recent Cal game is a great example. Everyone on campus I’ve spoken to agrees it felt great to stuff the Bears, but ultimately the game left us less than thrilled. All season our minds have been obsessed with roses and to many there has not been a single question all year as to our right to them. Sure, we go to the coliseum and scream our heads off…for the first half. Then, as the booze is wearing off, we get a little hungry or a little sunburned, we start the long walk home. Go ahead criticize it, bemoan the mercurial attention spans of Los Angeles fans, but I challenge you to stay at game after game, where the most exciting point is a dancing tree, and you only get him once a year.

This strange attitude is reflected on campus. It is a mix of terrible obsession and bizarre ennui. From Tuesday onward students discuss the upcoming game, our chances, who will have the big game, what kind of strategies will Pete employ, who in our defense is injured now and why it won’t matter. These discussions aren’t just held among the fanatical fans, but among the platinum blonde sorority girls, pale-faced film students, middle-aged faculty, grad students, and groundskeepers. I would say that the vast majority of people on campus could name at least 10 to 15 players on the team, as well as our second and third string QBs. Then after the game, unless it’s a four-hour heart attack like Notre Dame, everyone feels strangely empty. We walk from our living rooms, or the Coliseum as if nothing really happened. Maybe we’ll talk over a fantastic catch or a monstrous tackle, but our minds quickly turn to other things. There’s no afterglow for the fans, only the Rose Bowl, and a sense of entitlement.

Some of this comes from the weird media hurricane that surrounds USC. Our players have been elevated to ridiculous levels of stardom, and it is only magnified by the celebrity echo chamber that is Los Angeles. I see Matt Leinart on TV and magazines as much as anyone else in the county, but I also regularly see him wandering about campus, stretching out for that rigorous ballroom dancing class. It’s hard not to think of them as celebrities when you see a news van and reporters interviewing players on a Wednesday. Yet, they are students. I’ve been to parties where LenDale White is hanging out, my friend has a class with Reggie Bush three times a week. Fans live among their heroes and we expect glory, but they are still mundane to us. They are around us all the time and thus we can’t elevate them to the constellation of stars that the media does.

Life on campus is as not as weird as it might seem. I eat lunch in the athletes dining hall. It’s close to where I work and, unsurprisingly, the food is the best on campus. I’ve gotten used to seeing Bush and White standing in line in front of me, I’ve even come to accept that no matter how many bacon cheeseburgers they have made, I will not get one. I’ve gotten used to seeing Matt Leinart and his statuesque girlfriend hugging outside the gym while I bust my skinny ass on the treadmill. I’ve even gotten used to walking past all the Heismans and the Crystal Football as I wander through Heritage Hall, but I have yet to get used to how sweet it feels to win it all. Despite the hype, the odd boredom, the inevitable trash talk every time USC makes the slightest stumble, it’s good to be here and I certainly wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I've drank more stolen wine with Ben Gigli than anyone else I know. He also was the first friend I had to get his driver's license which meant I bummed many rides off him sophomore year in high school, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. If you liked what he wrote, leave a comment or e-mail us at sportszilla at gmail dot com and we'll try to convince him to write more.

Also, if you're interested in writing a guest column, send us a sample column. It should be no less than 250 words, no more than about 750 (though if it's good, we'll make an exception).


Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said...

This was nicely written by Ben. Winning consistently can jade you it seems. Sadly, I don't think this will be a problem for me and my teams.

11:25 PM  

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