Los Angeles, Calif. – Taking his cue from Homer’s Odyssey, University of Southern California head football coach Pete Carroll attempted to appease the legendary anger of Poseidon with an offer of burnt lamb, approximately seventy heads of cattle and an 8 ft. high statue of USC running back Reggie Bush made entirely from gold.
Carroll’s attempt at mollifying the ancient sea god’s wrath comes on the heels of what many are saying was one of the worst weeks any Division I-A football program has ever seen.
On April 23 Yahoo! Sports and the Miami Herald broke a story concerning the possibility of extra benefits to the family of Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. If the allegations prove true, USC could be stripped of a portion of the wins that constitute its 34 game winning streak from 2003-2006. NCAA sanctions also are a possibility. Rumors that junior offensive tackle Winston Justice – who, along with Bush, was among a group of Trojans who elected to skip their senior years in order to declare for the draft – were involved have yet to be substantiated.
Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Mark Sanchez was arrested on April 26 on suspicion of sexual assault. Sanchez, who was expected to contend for the starting position, spent the night in jail and posted a $200,000 bond; his case is still pending.
On April 29 two separate stories broke: Bush, long the prohibitive number one overall pick, could not reach an agreement with the Houston Texans who would opt to sign North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams instead, and the since disproved accusation that running back LenDale White failed a drug test at the Indianapolis Combine.
April 30 – the first day of the NFL Draft – was long expected to be one of the high points of the offseason for the Trojans. Instead they saw the revelation that the living arrangement of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Matt Leinart and roommate wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett might have violated NCAA bylaws after Leinart’s father moved the two into a new apartment complex due to the constant presence of fans at their old address. Additionally, Bush dropped to the expected number two slot while Leinart fell all the way to the tenth spot after being a top five and even top three projection for the majority of the past year and a half. A draft that could have seen as many as five or even six Trojans in the first round instead saw only two: Justice and White both fell to the second round after concerns about their character allowed them to slip, and the stocks of safety Darnell Bing (fourth) and guard Fred Matua (seventh) plummeted.
“Like Homer’s Odysseus, we have endured a thousand stings and a hundred obstacles in our quest for normalcy, some of them self inflicted but many at the historically fickle hands of the Fates. The cannibalistic Laestrygonians, the gifts of Aeolus, the fierce Ciconians and the subtle allure of both the Lotus-Eaters and the sirens for [Odysseus], the ravages of the NCAA and the foolishness and cupidity of humanity for us. And, much like Odysseus himself, we wished we had thought of offering a rack of roasted lamb to Poseidon ages ago,” Carroll read from a prepared statement.
The sirens of Homer’s epic have been known to offer benefits to both homesick mariners and NCAA athletes – for a price.
“In fact, Odysseus had to land on Circe’s island twice before it was all over and he was allowed to return to Ithaca. I’m really hoping this doesn’t mean LaMar Griffin [Bush's step-father] has a mansion in the [Hollywood] Hills under ‘lease’ he forgot to mention,” Carroll added. “Sometimes these things just kind of escape you, and two weeks and an NCAA investigation later all you can do is slap your forehead and say, ‘Man! I should’ve sacrificed a couple of flocks of cattle to Poseidon weeks ago.'”
“Just kind of think of it as looking for a pair of glasses that have been perched on your head the entire time or something goofy like that.”
University of Oxford classics professor and Philip X. Andoupolous chair Margaret Addison said that similarities between the Odyssey and USC’s current situation abound, but that there were subtle differences.
“Pete Carroll, like Odysseus, is famous for his cunning and his use of strategem instead of the strength normally associated with ancient Greek heroes and berserker warriors like Ajax and [current Mississippi head coach Ed] Orgeron. In fact, Odysseus stands directly opposed to the figure of Achilles, who so epitomized the highly sought ideal of andreia, or ‘beautiful courage’, but also led his troops to slaughter time and time again with ill-advised forays into blood lust,” Addison said.
“Yet at the same time, where Odysseus helped topple the ‘topless towers of Ilium’ and burnt Troy to the ground Carroll has resurrected the near comatose Trojan program over the last five years with wins, national championships and an aura of seeming invinciblity. And instead of attempting to return home to Ithaca like Homer’s hero, Carroll was clearly eager to leave the area of Ithaca, New York and the entire East Coast after his stint as an NFL head coach.”
Many have pointed out that Odysseus was brought low by his own hubris in refusing to acknowledge or supplicate Poseidon, the father of the cyclops Polyphemus whom the hero killed early on in his voyage home. USC’s recent success and the resultant pride have many noting that it was only a matter of time until the hammer fell, whether wielded by the ancient Greek pantheon or the infernal hand of the NCAA.
Ancient oral history or the most overused pun in collegiate sports headlines?
It is unknown if Carroll’s offer will have any effect on the triton-wielding diety of the tempest-toss’d seas, but the traditional sacrifice of burnt flesh and living animal was deemed not enough by the sixth year head coach. Carroll decided to augment the offering with the statue of Bush, made entirely of ingots of gold melted down from spare championship rings and assembled over a period of two days by a crew of graduate assistants. Ancient dieties have long been known for their weak spots for both roasted goat and shiny, multi-carat golden idols, though whether Poseidon will accept the offering remains to be seen.
Experts note that even after Odysseus’ attempt at placating Poseidon he still had to endure the wrath of Helios the sun god after his men stupidly ate cattle sacred to him, an event eerily similar to the ongoing reprecussions of the Griffins seemingly baffling choice to “eat” their reputations and relationship with USC away despite repeated warnings and advice. Much like Odysseus’ soldiers’ ill-fated foray into early dining, the Griffins were only a year or two away from their chosen destination – in this case, a gigantic mound of money.
Few critics, however, are willing to predict what will happen even if Poseidon is satisfied.
“I am of the opinion that Carroll will eventually succeed in metaphorically returning home and triumphing over adversary,” Addison said. “Much like [Alfred Lord] Tennyson’s Ulysses, I see in him a man whose passion for life and exploration will never allow him full rest – and though he may now appear to be ‘an idle king’ he will inevitably seek to ‘sail beyond the sunset and the baths of all the western stars’ by recruiting a class of twenty Scout and Rivals rated five star players. It seems obvious even to these British eyes that [Carroll] is a man determined ‘to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.'”
“Then again, much like Odysseus, he could opt to shoot everyone who so much as looked at Penelope the wrong way. I would probably expect a mixture of ‘one equal temper of heroic hearts’ and good old fashioned fairly indiscriminate slaying.”