Week Before UCLA Game Edition – 11/23/09

I am going to keep up my annual tradition of re-printing my “Why I hate UCLA so much” column, but there is other football to get to.  This was quite a weekend, so bear with me, and then a very special re-printed column appears below.

– This wasn’t a real strong week for those looking to claim a high coaching IQ in today’s college ranks.  The last minute of the LSU game represented a long terminable offense if you ask me.  Tedford beat Stanford, ending their Rose Bowl bid (which would have come to them had they won), but he did so despite taking a knee on 3rd and 8 in the red zone.  And in that same game, Harbaugh went for a 4th down and 4th and 9 – for no reason.  And Charlie Weis lost to UConn.  Seriously.  Not in basketball – in football.  The weekend had a lot of action-packed games, but unfortunately many of them were either decided by or took place despite some unbelievably idiotic coaching.

– That Oregon/Arizona game was a classic, and it did not do a lot to instill confidence that the Trojans will be able to handle the Wildcats in the final game of the year.  Arizona looked really good, and it is a shame someone had to lose.

– I believe Oregon will beat Oregon State and go on to the Rose Bowl.  As for the rest of the Pac-10, I have absolutely no idea how this will work.  IF USC wins out, and that is a big IF, I think there will be a FOUR-way tie for second place (Stanford, Oregon State, Cal, and USC).  I get a headache trying to understand what happens from there so all I know is that USC needs to win their next two games.  And for those mathematically challenged, that starts with their next game.

– Either Las Vegas, San Francisco (Emerald Bowl), El Paso (Sun Bowl), or San Diego (the Holiday Bowl).  Wow.  What a difference.  Seven years in a row of Rose Bowls and Orange Bowls have left us spoiled.

– I took advantage of the USC bye week to take my family to Disneyland for the weekend.  Walking around Disneyland Saturday afternoon, I was surprised how many UCLA shirts I saw (I never, ever, ever see people in Southern California wearing UCLA attire).  Of course, I didn’t have the heart to tell them that right then and there, while they were walking around trying to figure out how long the line was at Splash Mountain, UCLA was playing a home football game.  I would have laughed if I were not so mystified.

– UCLA is playing well.  I think this Coliseum showdown will be a very tough game.  Our defense has fallen apart right as their offense has built some confidence.  Neither side has anything to take for granted.

– It is common knowledge at this point that Charlie Weis will be fired.  I expect Notre Dame will hire Jon Gruden, and I expect he will do quite well there.  As a purist – someone who respects the hell out of Notre Dame and cherishes USC’s rivalry with them – I hope I am right.  I love beating the best.  And Notre Dame with a good coach ought to be there.

– The BCS is getting their snooze-fest of a wish: some SEC team (undefeated) vs. Texas (undefeated).  Nebraska can play spoiler, as can Auburn or Florida State.  This has really not been a stellar year for college football in terms of dominant teams.  But some teams have done better than others, and they are around to participate.  My boys will be back.

– I think the below diatribe, written several years ago, will do plenty to explain where my feelings for UCLA come from.  I really do not loathe them.  I just do not take them seriously as a football program.  Neither do their own students or alumni.  I do not know a single Bruin that went to one game this year, and I am not kidding.  I live in Newport Beach, CA, a hot-bed of USC and UCLA well-to-do alumni.  The UCLA fans are as UCLA fans are: simply obsessed with USC.  The pathology of this is better explained below.  With that I bid thee farewell, I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving (even my Bruin friends), and I say: See you Saturday in the Coliseum.  May the best team win.

*** Why does David Bahnsen hate UCLA so much????    Allow me to begin my answer to this question by qualifying it a bit.  I actually do not disrespect UCLA as an academic institution as much as I used to.  I know 3 or 4 people who went there who I like (definitely not more than that).  I am now too mature in my old age to not respect the fact that it is a quality school, with a handful of quality sports programs.  But the nice comments do seriously end right there, as I have a fundamental reason for hating UCLA the way I do – particularly as a devout football fan, and as a passionate competitor of a person.

 I think that throughout my childhood and teen years I simply viewed them as a local rival, a team I loved to beat, and a team involved in a cross-town rivalry that frequently went back and forth.  Of course, throughout history, USC had dominated this rivalry, and picked up oodles of Heismans and National Championships, and UCLA had done no such thing.  But, in fairness, I did not appreciate this fact until a bit past my teen years.  But as the 1990’s went on, and UCLA began an 8-game win streak over USC, my hatred for a team that voluntarily selected powder blue as their school color became more and more intense.
In 1995, my father, and the man who instilled a love for USC in me, passed away.  This was just two weeks after UCLA came in the Coliseum with a true freshman QB named Cade McNown and beat the eventual Rose Bowl champion, USC Trojans.  So USC loses to UCLA, my father dies, and then we go on to beat Northwestern in the Rose Bowl (Keyshawn Johnson’s senior year).  In 1996, a mediocre USC went into the Rose Bowl to play a mediocre UCLA team, and held a 17-point lead with 6:51 seconds to play.  Not only did USC manage to lose this game in double OT (one of the worst losses I have ever observed), but they also apparently got UCLA thinking they were a good football team, because the 1997 and 1998 UCLA teams were pretty good teams, each going 10-2, and each beating USC.  It was this stretch of time that reinforced for me what a passion-less, clue-less, historically ignorant, football-apathetic, etiquette-lacking, ethics-deprived group of people the UCLA community truly was (as a generalization, of course).  I was single at the time, living by myself at a condo in Newport Beach, and frequently a part of the sports bar scene throughout Orange County.  I traveled to USC games religiously (despite mediocre seasons), and increased my passion ten-fold for USC football (the heritage, the tailgating, the travel, the history, the love, the community – the whole thing).  Largely in response to the death of my father, and largely because the Trojan family became unbelievably special to me for deeply spiritual and philosophical reasons, my love for all USC was peaking, while UCLA was in the midst of their best football run of all time.  In 1998, I went to the Rose Bowl for Cade McNown’s senior year performance against USC, and came out to find my brand new maroon-colored BMW keyed to death.  I had USC license plate frames stolen no less than three times.  I witnessed Bruin fans/students beat a 60-year old man into a coma.  I had my home vandalized, my possessions stolen, my car attacked, and my frequent social visits to sports bars ruined, by members of a program and community that have not won the Rose Bowl since 1986, have not won a national championship since 1954 (if you even count that one), and could not sell out their own stadium when they were winning 20-games in a row.  It was not just the unbelievably piss poor behavior of every Bruin I was ever around – it was the fact that they sold about 23 tickets for any road game they played, they choked big time in every big game they ever played, and they had absolutely no pedigree or football resume to speak of.  None.  I could not help but wonder – “What in the world gives these guys their attitude?  By what standard do they justify this rank immaturity and arrogance when frankly inundated with such tremendous mediocrity?”  And that is when I had my epiphany – right in the middle of the Jan. 1, 1999 Rose Bowl (at which barely a baby blue shirt could be found, as the all-red crowd of Wisconsin witnessed the all-red team of Wisconsin run all over UCLA’s surrendered-ass).  The reason no one at UCLA came to the Rose Bowl, the reason why their defense laid down against Miami a month later, the reason why they were so brutally miserable to be around in the middle of the win streak against USC, is because every single thing in their collective lives is about one, and only one, thing: the fact they are not USC.  I had countless Bruins tell me they would gladly lose every game if it meant beating USC.  I heard dozens of people in bars yell, “we have beaten you six years in a row” (I had to tell them it was eight).  I heard more jokes and lines about how USC is a bunch of rich kids, and spoiled children, and other such creative drivel, that I finally understood why I hated them so:  They did not exist to flourish as an institution; they existed out of an unbelievable inferiority complex to their private school colleagues across town – the University of Southern California.  Every UCLA fan conversation turned into some nasty tirade about how they had beaten us, and how our daddies all paid our tuition bills.  To this day, I never, ever hear Bruins define or defend their school in the context of any identity or pride; I only hear relative comparisons and contrasts to USC.  It is like an obsession, only no shrink is needed to identify the complex, because they wear it right on their sleeves. 
So after years of taking the vandalism, coarse language, threats of violence, and whining tirades about an eight-game winning streak (one that yielded ZERO Rose Bowl wins for UCLA, and ZERO national championships, and ZERO Heisman Trophy winners), I now had full clarity about what made the Bruins tick.  And then came Pete Carroll …  USC wins three Heismans in four years; they stand a week away from their sixth consecutive Pac-10 championship; they have won two national championships in the last five years, and were 16 seconds from a third, and won another two BCS bowl games along the way.  They beat UCLA by somewhere around 1,000 points from 2001-2005.  I do not spend an iota of time gloating to the Bruin community over this stretch, because (a) I am above that, and (b) I can not find them, ANYWHERE.  They damn near ruin my 1990’s, and then disappear from the planet in the 2000’s.  I wonder why?  UCLA is 37-36 in conference since Cade McNown left (special thanks to Mike in Torrance).  A .500 ball club over a ten-year period.  Wow.  UCLA is 26-9 in the month of September since Cade left, but 8-16 in October.  This is a simply incredible statistic.  Dorrell is 4-9 in November as a head coach (special thanks to miyamky).  This is not mediocrity – it is cow dung.  They have lost to teams I have never heard of in bowl games.  They have lost more games to teams they were favored to beat than any team in football over the last ten years.  They have featured spectacular prep athletes, but have not managed to do anything of consequence as a football team, at all.  So last year, they win a 13-9 fluke game over the Pac-10 champion Trojans, and what do they do?  Riot in the streets of Pasadena, and begin yet another year of irrational gloating over a USC win (their first win since 1998, I might add).  It was a huge win for their program, and they had every right to celebrate, but this is what I am getting at – they responded to their 13-9 win over USC by going into the Emerald Bowl, and getting their asses handed to them by one of the worst Florida State teams in recent memory.  They simply do not care about anything but USC.  I am too competitive of a person, and too focused on finding influences and mentors of success, ambition, and self-respect, to find anything compatible with this Bruin worldview that I uncovered in the late 1990’s.  Is every single Bruin guilty of this?  Of course not.  But am I being fair and charitable to the systemic state of Bruin culture?  Absolutely, I am. 
So do I hate UCLA because they are a tax-funded public school, and USC is an elite private school?  No.  Do I hate UCLA because their alumni tend to have absolutely no interest whatsoever in “being Bruins”, while the USC community binds together like a brotherhood?  No.  Do I hate UCLA because I begrudge their basketball success?  Absolutely not – I envy it, and continue to this day to believe John Wooden to be a mentor and role model.  I hate UCLA, because they obsess with USC, like a kid brother who can’t get his big brother’s accomplishments out of his mind.  I may think it is weird that they use Cal’s fight song, but I do not hate them for that.  I may have substantial ideological axes to grind with them, but I do with much of higher education.  What I can not stand is the fact that the general state of the student body is oozing with pathological inferiority complexes, and they take that out on innocent and well-to-do Trojans every chance they can.  They are a great school, but they are not a football school.  And everyone at UCLA seems to agree with me, except the one game each year where they are blessed to play USC.  Now, the time has come for this game to never again be a “blessing” to them.  I have stated before, and will state again, my ultimate goal for them is the elimination of their football program.  They have a rich basketball tradition, and have invested impressive resources in improving and sustaining such.  They only play football for the purpose of beating USC every now and then.  My goal is that eventually they wake up, and say, “we can’t beat USC any more anyways; let’s direct these resources to more profitable entities, like women’s gymnastics, and men’s diving”.  That day is coming.  =)