Bumped. - BN Eds.
That's right. I hate ‘em.
I always expected I'd grow out of it by now. After all, I graduated 13 years ago. But it's an ugly rivalry. I've been exposed to the Texas-Texas A&M, Oklahoma-Nebraska, and Army-Navy rivalries. Those are huge, but there's still a level of respect there. Not so with USC-UCLA. I don't have anything nice to say about USC. It's a horrible place. And I'm proud to say, as a UCLA student in the mid-nineties, we never lost to them while I was there.
Now, I should clarify; I don't hate people who go or went to USC. I hate USC. It has a way of bringing out the worst in humanity. It turns good people into Trojans.
I met one of my best friends freshman year. He had a twin at USC. We call him Evil Twin to this day. That year my friend had a mishap with a ladder and spent six weeks on the shelf with crutches. Meanwhile, Evil Twin would show up at UCLA parties and pretend to be his brother. He would grab girls' butts and make horribly inappropriate comments. And so my friend, the good twin, spent the balance of his freshman year convincing some of the more attractive girls on campus he actually did have a twin brother and wasn't at said parties. While this is unquestionably funny (then and now,) my friend had a strained relationship with Evil Twin for some time after. I thought brothers looked out for each other. But I was still just a novice when it came to understanding Trojans.
My first USC-UCLA game was at the Rose Bowl. The silver lining of an off-campus stadium is riding a school bus with 80 of your closest friends to football games. It's a great warm-up. Grinding through gameday traffic on the way, our bus pulled along side a tan Rolls Royce convertible with the snobbiest looking old couple you can imagine, decked out in Trojan garb. I can still picture the wife's Kentucky Derby style hat with flowers on it. The car had small USC flags on the front corners as if they were royalty. They looked ridiculous. Someone in our crew threw a full plastic cup of beer on their ride. Not the best sportsmanship, but it's arguable they deserved it for being SC fans, and it was nothing a quick car wash couldn't solve. Yet, the horror on their faces was priceless. Steam spewed from the lady's ears under her hat. She frantically yelled at the bus, which had the expected effect of more taunting. In a rage, she ordered her husband to pull over in front of the bus, blocking 3 lanes on the 210 ninety minutes before kickoff. She boarded, still wearing her hat, and threatened everyone including the driver. We responded with feverish laughter and more taunting. As if there were some recourse, she wrote down the bus's license plate and told us all this would be our last football game. We laughed harder while the steam from her ears thickened. Good luck with that, lady. She got back in her Rolls Royce and the two old Trojans drove off angrier than before they pulled over. I enjoyed that moment tremendously. UCLA won that day 31-19, denying USC the Rose Bowl. We never lost to SC when I was there.
The following year we took our bus to the Coliseum. USC had already clinched a Rose Bowl berth and was a heavy favorite. After four consecutive losses to the Bruins, this would be Trojan Fan's turn to claim superior and rub years of frustration in our face. The Bruins opened with a little trickeration to take an early lead, and held on to win 24-20. We never lost to SC during my UCLA tenure. Trojan Fan was not happy. One student in particular was having an especially hard time. Driving home in his luxury coupe, he took exception to our bus's cheering. We taunted him heavily. With his face as red as his USC shirt and nowhere to channel his anger, he decided he'd fight us. From outside the bus. Silly Trojan. He stopped his car while his friend waited in the passenger seat and headed toward the side of our bus. We taunted harder. Finally, he jumped and took a swing at someone through the window. He got nothing but frame. We laughed hysterically and taunted louder. As he winced in pain, he wondered what happened to the watch he was wearing before throwing a punch at a bus full of UCLA students. It had fallen off and was sitting on my seat. It was a nice watch. Expensive. He demanded we return it. So we obliged by throwing it out the window . . . on the other side, into oncoming traffic. I enjoyed that moment too. I love clowning Trojans.
After graduation, my distaste for everything USC hadn't dissipated. Living in Brentwood, I'd play pick-up hoops at a park just north of San Vicente. One afternoon as I was leaving the court, another guy was packing up his USC gym bag. He saw my UCLA sweatshirt (which I still wear today.) He looked at me and said, "what happened, your parents couldn't afford to send you to a real school?" He was dead serious. Confused, all I could say was, "No, I got into one." Dumbass. Typical Trojan. They don't change after graduation. UCLA never lost to USC when I was a student, and for good measure we beat ‘em that year too, 34-17.
Years later my friend, his Evil Twin, and I went out together with our wives for New Years. It had been a while and it was good to catch up. After a few hours and more drinks, the conversation inevitably turned to college football. SC was used to having their way with us by then and the arrogance was peaking. Evil Twin put his arm around my shoulders in a fatherly fashion and said, "You know, it'll be a while before UCLA can put together the kind of successful and classy program we have now." I'd call it unbelievable, but it wasn't. Evil Twin was now a full-blooded Trojan. Some months later, many wins and a BCS championship were vacated from his classy program. While I otherwise don't revel in others' misfortunes, I did then. Big time. Evil Twin never beat UCLA during his tenure at USC. He couldn't have, because that's when I was at UCLA and we never lost to USC when I was there.
Today I have a business career and meet professionals throughout California. I often encounter SC alum and some of them are wonderful people. I'm always conflicted when I meet someone I like from USC. But as I said, I don't hate people from USC. I hate what USC does to people. I hate Trojans. A few weeks ago I went to lunch with a client. I've grown to know him over the past couple years and consider him a friend. He's twenty years my elder, and someone I look up to. I have great respect for him. Over lunch we learned of each others' alma matters. He went to USC. I forgave him and said I was still willing to work with him. He laughed and asked, "What does a UCLA grad call an SC grad?" I shook my head. "Boss," he said. We shared a polite laugh, but I know deep down inside he was pretty happy with himself. Deep down inside, I cringed.
I hate USC. Did I mention we never lost to them when I was a student? Because we didn't. Not once.