So, here's a little irreverence leading up to the WSU game.
In the run up to the Notre Dame game, I thought about doing a post about one of my favorite sports movies. Yes, I've got a soft spot for Rudy. But, with due respect to UCLA alum Sean Astin, there's not much to write about. Then, I remembered that Astin was in my favorite movie trilogy - the Lord of the Rings. And, that got me thinking. What prominent figures in the UCLA and USC sports world are best encapsulated by the characters in LOTR? Here's what I came up with:
Ben Howland might not be a descendent of a long lost line of kings, but he is deserving of his spot atop a throne in Westwood. Howland is a warrior, who has shown great adeptness at defense (as Aragorn did at Helm's Deep), and battles with skill, passion and wisdom. In just a short time, he vanquished the demons of Lavin, saved the kingdom of Westwood from the evil winds of mediocrity, and set the Bruins back on the path to greatness not unlike the days of old.
John Wooden didn't need to win a battle against the Balrog of Moria to earn his title, but there is no question that this Wizard of Westwood is the most successful coach in college basketball history. Under his masterful guidance, the Bruins' performance has been nearly supernatural, setting all-time records with four perfect 30-0 seasons, 88 consecutive victories, 38 straight NCAA tournament victories, 20 PAC 10 championships, and 10 national championships, including seven in a row. Both powerful and wise, the Wizard of Westwood not only conjured national championships in the past, but also continues to fight evil and support UCLA.
A jovial, but eccentric visionary of Westwood, Al Scates is the much loved head coach of the UCLA men's volleyball team. Scates has enjoyed a long and prosperous coaching career after his earlier adventures with the Wizard of Westwood (including when the Wizard told J.D. Morgan to rip up the letter of resignation submitted by Scates in remorse after allowing one of Wooden's basketball players to compete in a volleyball match). Like Baggins, Scates brought back to the Shire/Westwood unimaginable glory and adventures, including 19 NCAA titles. Just as Baggins was a pioneer for the normally reclusive Hobbits, Scates was a pioneer in the sport of volleyball, inventing the quick offense now favored by teams across the country. Let's hope Scates too can live until his eleventy-first birthday.
As good 'ole Sam, we have Karl Dorrell. Stick with me here. I know KD hasn't exactly survived any quests to save all of Middle Earth. But, by all accounts, he's good natured, loyal and a trustworthy companion. Of course, he doesn't have a shread of leadership material, speaks inarticulately, and isn't the sharpest tool in the shed.
King Theoden/Albert Carnesale
As Monarch of the land of Westwood, former UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale may have once been a courageous leader. By way of the slithering machinations of the vile Grima Wormtongue (Lavin), Carnesale's mind was subverted and poisoned, for a time plunging Westwood into darkness and despair. Carnesale's failings included his continuing support for Lavin (Wormtongue) after he had clearly failed as head basketball coach, as well as his advocacy for the hiring of an untested, unqualified Karl Dorrell. We can only assume that a man of Carnesale's background must have been under the influence of evil magic to do so. Unlike King Théoden, Carnesale was never exorcised of evil's influence, and UCLA was not restored to health and soundness of spirit until after Carnesale banished himself to retirement.
Entering his hird season as UCLA's head baseball coach, John Savage has already begun establishing the Bruins as a perennial national contender. Like the Prince of the Elven Kingdom of Mirkwood, Legolas, Savage possesses a keen intellect and senses that have helped him to make remarkable strides both on the field and on the recruiting trail. Savage is young, bold and sharp, and represents emerging, youthful leadership of his people (the baseball team). Too bad that, unlike Legolas, he doesn't live the immortal life.
The MSM. Like the Dark Lord Sauron, the MSM is powerful and disembodied, and looks upon the college sports world with its terrible piercing gaze. Formless and terrifying, and akin to the lidless eye of Sauron, the MSM has to power to see far and wide, but it is blinded by single minded pursuit of the almighty dollar, forsaking the truth and the people it serves. Despite its incredible evil power, the MSM will ultimately be defeated by the good people of Middle-Internet, who will unite in the blogosphere and someday defeat it.
Witch King/OJ Simpson
Lord of the nine terrifying Disgraced Former Athletes, Orenthal James Simpson was once a great king of college football and the NFL, having won the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, and been inducted into the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Simpson was enslaved to the will of Sauron (the MSM) by his memorable performance in the The Naked Gun trilogy. However, the spectre's true guise was revealed on June 12, 1994 when he (allegedly) murdered his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman, revealing himself as the twisted and malicious fiend he truly was, and is today.
Though considered by some to be the wisest and greatest coach in college football, Pete Carroll fell into darkness when he delved too deep into the study of agents, and the influence of lax discipline and unsavory practices. The coach's pride and love of power overcame his observance of NCAA rules, and he became the chief adversary of the integrity-loving people of the college football world. By dark means, Carroll has bred a vast army of terrible 5-star recruits to conquer the lands of the BCS. Fortunately, his version of the Uruk-hai was defeated at the Rose Bowl in January 2006, and his fortress in South Central flooded by scandal just months later.
A devious servant of evil, Steve Lavin was once the incompetent, vile and deceitful head coach of UCLA's basketball team. Lavin used his influence over the media and the weakened or inept Carnesale (King Théoden) to manipulate Bruin fans to his true master's purpose of preserving his job. Thanks to the efforts of fair minded Bruins, Wormtongue Lavin was later cast out of the great halls of UCLA by the powers of good, and fled to ESPN.
The current director of the sport information office at UCLA, Marc Dellins purports to rule in the stead of an absent competent head football coach. Overcome by his grief at his own ineffectiveness and physical repulsiveness, Dellins refuses to light the beacons of modern era communications practices to promote UCLA athletics. Displaying infuriating weakness and blindness, Dellins callously shirks his sports information obligations.
I could go on, as there's about a million characters in the LOTR trilogy. But, those were the ones that stood out. If you've got any other ideas, comment away.
Finally, I wholeheartedly acknowledge how monumentally dorky this all is. But, my choices are this, or dwell on the sad state of UCLA football under Karl Dorrell. Trust me, this is better.