Bring us the head of Tommy Trojan
As Cal prepares to do high-stakes battle with USC, we're smelling like Roses and taking no prisoners
| 16 November 2006
Call us Oski.
For long-suffering Bear boosters, the Cal football squad's upset loss to Arizona last weekend was the equivalent of getting a leg chewed off by — well, by a Wildcat, actually. The details are unimportant. Pain is pain.
The team from Tucson rained cactus dust on our lovely, hard-earned cruise to the Rose Bowl. And we won't rest until we take our revenge on — well, on the University of Southern California, the nearest thing to a great white whale to be found in the Pac-10 conference.
| Cal vs. USC
The Golden Bears face USC this Saturday in Los Angeles. The game, scheduled for a 5 p.m. start, will be televised nationally on ABC, and can be heard on KGO-AM radio.
Except for hapless, guppy-like Stanford — whose 113th-ranked defense helped the Cardinal snap a season-long losing streak Saturday — only USC now stands between the Golden Bears and Pasadena. Whip the Trojans this week, win a Rose Bowl berth. Lose, and pack for Palookaville.
Sure, Ahab and the Pequod crew got their clocks cleaned by Moby Dick. But Ahab was arrogant and tyrannical, and pride goeth before a fall. For history buffs and those old enough to remember, Cal's last trip to the Rose Bowl was in 1959. Unless you're a Cubs fan, that's as humbling as it gets.
And, as lit majors will recall, Ahab never did get the hang of the spread offense. Advantage: Tedford.
So forgive us our conceits. Fair is fair, and vice versa. Was it fair when, in 2004, No. 1 USC got its joyride to the Orange Bowl, while the Rose-worthy 10-1 Bears — ranked fourth in both the AP and ESPN/USA polls — were unceremoniously detoured to, and defeated in, the Holiday Bowl?
Is it fair that a bum call on Saturday cost the Bears a critical interception and, arguably, the game itself — not to mention a shot at a national championship — while losses by other top-ranked teams put USC back on track for still another BCS title game?
And what about that Trojan horse? You call that fair?
So this isn't about fairness. It's about revenge. It's about reminding ourselves why the Golden Bears — and their blue-and-gold faithful — deserve a victory Saturday. And, of course, why the Trojans don't.
USC is best-known for two things, one of which is football. Its greatest gridiron star was O.J. Simpson, a running back who ran into trouble with the law after finding a seam into show biz. Berkeley has burnished its reputation with 20 (count 'em) Nobel laureates, including former Chancellor Glenn Seaborg, whose last name is an anagram of "Go Bears." (USC's first president, Marion M. Bovard, yields the anagram "Bravo dim Roman.")
USC is equally renowned for its movie-star alums, the most famous of whom was Marion Morrison, who as John Wayne became a fervent cheerleader for the war in Vietnam. Gregory Peck, who graduated from Berkeley in 1939 and played the peg-legged captain in Hollywood's version of Moby Dick, was a vocal Vietnam critic. USC also produced Hugh Beaumont, the dad on the '50s sitcom Leave It to Beaver. Jerry Mathers, "the Beav" himself, graduated from Berkeley in 1974, not having died — contrary to near-ubiquitous rumor — in the war glorified by the Duke in The Green Berets.
Speaking of nostalgia, who can forget those zany Watergate years? Not USC, surely, which lists among its alumni Ron Ziegler, erstwhile Disneyland Jungle Boat tour guide and White House press secretary under Richard Nixon; Donald Segretti, Nixon's dirty-tricks maestro; and Thelma Ryan, aka former First Lady Pat Nixon. In a more contemporary vein, there's neocon military-policy adviser Richard Perle, a leading advocate of the 2003 Iraq invasion, who earned his bachelor's from USC in 1964.
Famous writers, USC: Leo Buscaglia, Michael Landon, George Lucas. Famous writers, Berkeley: Robert Penn Warren, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, Pauline Kael, Greil Marcus.
Most famous law-school graduate, USC: Joseph Wapner, judge of The People's Court, 1981-93. Most famous law-school graduate, Berkeley: Earl Warren, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1953-69.
Most recognizable political figures, USC: James "Focus on the Family" Dobson, Mary Bono, Lynn Swan. Most recognizable political figures, Berkeley: Ron Dellums, Barbara Lee, Jerry Brown.
Recent randomly selected academic event, USC: "The Skinny on Designer Jeans," a discussion of "image management" with designer and model Paige Adams-Geller. Recent randomly selected academic event, Berkeley: early wake-up call from Stockholm for George Smoot, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Cherished landmark, USC: Tommy Trojan, a life-size bronze statue known formally as the Trojan Shrine. Cherished landmark, Berkeley: the Campanile.
The list goes on. Granted, a fairer, more even-handed comparison might produce a somewhat different analysis of the two schools' strengths and weaknesses — USC gave the world Lionel Hampton and Marilyn Horne, we gave it William Hung — but this is no time for fairness. Revenge, like white whale, is a dish best served cold (and, ideally, with Champagne).