The introduction you do not need to read.
I am a fan of dualism. I dig mind/body, I am sweet on starkly evil vs. purest good, I liked the Jedi and the Sith. Every tattoo I’ve gotten has been in twos, neverminding that I currently have five. Like the waxing moon my hamburger’s gradual crescent shaped disintegration is heralded by the cyclical appearance and disappearance of french fries the color of the sun. I enjoy good prose, but write bad prose. I’ve read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I maybe even understood the parts about torque.
But I also didn’t like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s not really a narrative. It’s a collection of half crazed and poorly organized philosophical ramblings that may be valid and crucial to our understanding of Western thought, but they are boring. The book’s basic message is don’t be just a scientist or artist: be both. Well, that’s nice. And boring.
You know what else is theoretically nice? College football balance. You know what’s not boring? USC football dominating everything in its path, cruelly crushing the life from all those who would recruit from the Golden State, acknowledging few, yielding to none, laughing the way any good villain ought to laugh, deep and assured and terrifying and impossible not to admire, and definitely not like the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s really hoping makes it happen. I want USC to be like the guy in the rated R movie. You know, the guy you’re not sure whether or not you like yet. You’re not sure where he’s coming from.
“I’ll have a scotch on the rocks, please. Any scotch will do, as long as it’s not a blend, of course. Uh, single malt. Glenlivet, Glenfiddich perhaps. Maybe a Glengow… Any Glen.”
So I will admit that as much as I enjoy dualism, harmonious balance and the universal forces of natural equilibrium, I do not want them in my city. Where am I going with this?
Where is he going with this?
UCLA recruiting has finally caught up to the fact that it takes place in Los Angeles, epicenter of one of the nation’s most fertile high school football scenes. Sometime in the past few weeks the Bruins took a look around their environs and realized, “Hey, we’re kinda in the middle of something nice. Maybe we should, like, recruit here? And competently?”
This is unacceptable. Why is this happening? Who leaked the memo? Goddamn shitfuck, Scooter Libby. This isn’t the CIA. This shit is actually important.
In which the author gets his shit together. And stops using profanity.
So in the span of a few days UCLA gathered eight verbal commitments from the Los Angeles area, with seven of them coming in one 24 hour period. At least two of those players – Datone Jones and Rahim Moore – had offers from USC. Another is E.J. Woods, who’s kind of a big deal. Moore and Woods are members of the Rivals.com 100 to Watch list (Moore is also a member of a similar list on Scout.com). I would’ve been quite happy to get any and all of the three. The rest are, to me at least, unknowns. General consensus holds that they are solid prospects but that the players whom USC was interested in are four to five star guys; in other words, out of eight commits the Bruins landed three proto-elite players.
(At this stage of recruiting there are very few high schoolers who are past the proto-elite stage. Former Moorpark and current St. Bonaventure RB Darrell Scott is one of those. More on him later.)
Now, let’s say you were a not very objective observer. You have already beaten me by several magnitudes in objectivity. Anyway, let’s just assume you were not objective but objective enough because you were… say… an alien bent on world domination. You are interested in all human matters insofar as they pertain to military defense, industrial infrastructure, atmospheric suitability, the raw number and mass of natural resources you could drain, how many valuable-as-chattel humans would survive the first harsh months of slavery, etc. You know. Normal alien thoughts.
Football recruiting is important, sure, but in terms of world domination concerns it must rank somewhere in the 12th to 13th percentile, right behind our capacity for higher thought. So what I’m saying is picture yourself as that alien. And while we’re at it toss in a friend to help balance out your green skinned objectivity.
As a relatively impartial alien you can’t help but notice that the greater Los Angeles area’s two best college football programs aren’t very equal. One is a national icon, resplendent with national championships, All-Americans, Hall of Famers, Heisman Trophy winners and enough myth and folklore to make Paul Bunyun’s ad agency as pensive and moody as a junior high kid with a crush. The other is good enough, sure, and it’s got talent, but it’s apparent it hasn’t been competing very well with its geographical other. The question becomes, “How and why did this disparity arise?”
The easy answer is there’s simply no way for El Camino College to maintain the same level as USC on a regular basis.
Seriously, though: UCLA. Any impartial observer has to take a look at the Bruins and ask themselves, “What? The? Expletive?” One of the nation’s largest and most visible universities. A fantastic athletic tradition. Smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles. Home games at the Granddaddy. For the past several years UCLA must’ve been at the top of everybody’s list of theoretical sleeping giants, and now that Rutgers has gone and done the impossible there’s little doubt in my mind that UCLA has consistently wasted its opportunities and done less with more than just about any other program in the country outside of poor, poor latter-day Miami and Florida State… but at least the Canes and the Seminoles are coming off their own periods of dominance. UCLA? UCLA’s got one national championship, and one Heisman trophy, and neither are even solid: the Bruins’ 1954 championship was shared with Ohio State, who beat USC in the Rose Bowl, and Gary Beban’s 1967 Heisman is one of the most outrageous outrages in that overrated trophy’s history, coming as it did on the heels of runner-up O.J. Simpson’s amazing 23 Blast run to history against… wait for it… UCLA. To put it bluntly: the Bruins have not done anything in college football except tread water.
I am fine with this.
In which the author loses his shit altogether. And returns to profanity.
When Ohio State got pantsed by Florida on national television, I had several thoughts running through my mind:
- Wow. I hope Troy Smith enjoys Canada.
- Holy fucking shit. That could’ve been USC kicking the living shitfuck out of those Buckeye pussies. Shit.
- I need to see someone about this profanity problem.
That’s what it comes down to. USC slept walked through a good half the season and “eked” out an 11-2 campaign, a BCS win, a Rose Bowl ring and a likely pre-season number one ranking. UCLA’s savior was out of the picture for a good half the season and they eked out a 7-6 campaign, an Emerald Bowl loss, a Cracker Jack decoder ring and embarassment at the hands of a team that was seriously vying for worst offense of the 2006 season. But you know why none of that matters?
Cue the powder blue club: 13-fucking-9.
It is the absolute epitome of rivalry cliches, but it’s true: so long as you beat your rival even a shitty season becomes bearable. Unfortunately, in this case that one win has also given the Bruins credit. Sure, they had to call one of those loan companies that advertise at 3 a.m. on Spike TV, but the point is not the interest rate: the point is that their win gave them life. Even more importantly, it demonstrates that UCLA is theoretically still a valid place to go to play college football – and high school kids, being natively gullible, are buying it.
(I suppose this is where a person who believes in balance and objectivity would mention the sheer insanity of elite high school running backs continuing to sign up at, say, USC, where the running back depth chart [average star rating for ten tailbacks: 4.5] looks like the Hapsburg family tree on steroids and greenies. Luckily, no such person has ever been seen loitering around here, and if he was seen I’d make sure to blindside him.)
It also helps that UCLA’s newest coach is Eric Scott, formerly of Crenshaw High. Taking a look at page two of Rivals.com’s UCLA commitments list shows that Scott was directly involved in the recruiting of at least six of the eight recent commits, and the vast majority of these kids played in the C.I.F. City Section (Scott’s old stomping grounds). This is the Malzahn-Mustain factor except here it’s used competently: as someone who was plugged into the City Section – always one of the strongest leagues around – Scott has amplified the Bruins’ temporary positive 13-9 karma with his connections and his relationship with these Los Angeles based kids. And he doesn’t have to deal with Springdale High parents.
If you read this blog, chances are you’re obsessed with college football – which means that it’s a good bet you’ve had the same discussions I’ve had (internalized and externalized, the latter being done with shrieks of laughter) and you’ve probably come to the same conclusion as me: the biggest threat to USC is not Florida, or LSU, or Texas or any of the big perennial top ten powerhouses. It’s certainly not Notre Dame. (Hah! Double fucking hah!) And for right now let’s just put aside the general consensus of the oftentimes endearingly smug USC fanbase, which is that the biggest threat to USC is USC itself. (How Nietzchean! I bet Pete Carroll would make a great Zarathustra if he could just grow an overman beard.)
The biggest threat to USC’s current dominance is UCLA. Any alien can see that.
Right now that threat is slight. If we were emphasizing muppet terror alert systems, we are currently at low Cookie Monster levels.
So maybe this is invalidated by Elmo being maximally more dangerous than Oscar. That doesn’t mean the Department of Homeland Security is useless or anything, you pinko swine.
But pretty soon we may rise to Bert, or even Ernie. The ambiguously gay duo of B&E can only be reached, however, through another USC loss to UCLA. That is a fact. And if Ernie comes into play it’ll only be because UCLA got the Pac-10′s Rose Bowl bid (hah! double fucking hah!), beating out the Trojans, Cal, Oregon and Oregon State (that last one not so much a hah – the Beavers have 15 starters returning). If these things happen then recruits like Darrell Scott, the probable top running back in the nation for 2007, will seriously consider the Bruins because, hey, why not? This is why UCLA is USC’s worst enemy, and it’s the same reason Florida’s worst enemy is not Georgia, or LSU, or Tennessee, but rather mediocre Miami and poor, poor Florida State (and is it any wonder that Florida’s rise to prominence has coincided with the other two members of the Panhandle Tripod’s demise?): when you’re the top recruiter of your state, your biggest rival is always going to be the nearest and biggest (as in best) in state Division IA school that’s directly competing for your talent. Texas may hate Oklahoma, but it should fear Texas A&M. Notre Dame may hate USC, but it should fear… ummm… well, everyone, but particularly Rutgers. And USC should be wary of UCLA, because we’re still not at the stage where we have to use words like “fear”. After all, Elmo will be reached when and only when UCLA wins a national championship.
Pause for laughter.
Okay, so maybe when put that way the threat isn’t exactly dire. Sure, the Bruins have to replace all of three starters (K Justin Medlock, DE Justin Hickman and OG Robert Chai were all very good players)… on a 7-6 team. This is actually where I lay out some more stuff about UCLA being good next year and dangerous and blah blah blah, and then respond by sweeping all that aside with a rhetorical harumph – but let’s be realistic. UCLA’s coming to the Coliseum a year after knocking USC out of the national championship game, and they’ll be playing the pre-season number one ranked team in the country led by a senior Heisman Trophy candidate and the nation’s best defense. I’ve never been more sure of a win in my entire life and that includes the time the Trojans played France.
Still, the mere thought of UCLA winning anything including – especially! – recruiting battles makes me sick.
Go ahead! Throw your vote away!
So why should the rest of America care? They shouldn’t really. Like all two party systems, it doesn’t matter who wins. Sure, it may seem as if the reds are more corrupt than the blues, but that’s just because those in power will inevitably be corrupted. No big deal.
Like our current two party system, the blues will not rise up and sustain their vengeance. This is because at their heart they are cowards, and poor football players. And because the reds have an endless system of fanatical and partisan fund raising. And Hillary Clinton is so scary she makes you want to cheer for someone even scarier.
So in the end we’re gonna have to deal with the facts: the 2006 USC-UCLA game and the 2006 midterm elections were kind neither to USC nor the Republicans, respectively, but both can rely on their opponents’ legendary yellowish backsides, poor organization and general apathy-inducing miasma to neutralize any temporary advantages. UCLA and the Democrats may have gotten a few high school prep stars and the House and Senate, but we know that power will not remain in their hands. There’s already talk of wavering commitments in Westwood and America’s Mayor beating the pantsuit off of Mssr. and Mdm. Clinton.
USC is not going anywhere. This blip from UCLA is just that: a blip, a raspberry jam globule that will not deter the implacable non-Darth Helmet led Trojans so long as they win on 12/01/2007. And they will.
Finally, I will point out that I have compared my favorite team in the universe with the Republicans, and I am a registered Democrat. Not a happy one, nor even a particularly supportive one, but definitely one not happy with the current administration. See? Objectivity is still possible – which is why I’m voting for an alien in 2008.