Bruin Nation, college football, Crosstown Rivalry, football, L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Pac-12 Conference, Rivalry Week, Rose Bowl, Trojan Family, UCLA Bruin Marching Band, UCLA Bruins, UCLA vs USC, USC Trojan Marching Band, USC Trojans, Westwood
A spectacular sight – blue-clad UCLA fans and cardinal-clad USC fans watching the Bruins and Trojans during the 2008 game at the Rose Bowl. Photo courtesy of dailymail.co.uk
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT WEEK IN SOCAL SPORTS – RIVALRY WEEK – FEATURING THE SPORTING EVENT CONSIDERED BY MANY TO BE THE BIGGEST IN THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA REGION AND ON THE WEST COAST:
THE FOOTBALL GAME BETWEEN UCLA AND USC.
THIS YEAR WILL MARK THE 85th TIME THAT LOS ANGELES’ TWO BIGGEST INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING WILL MEET ON THE GRIDIRON, AND SOCAL SPORTS ANNALS.COM WILL BE PROVIDING FULL COVERAGE OF THE UPCOMING CONTEST.
WHICH INCIDENTALLY WILL DECIDE THE WINNER OF THE PAC-12 SOUTH.
TODAY MARKS THE BEGINNING OF THAT COVERAGE, FEATURING A PERSONAL APPROACH AS BEING A UCLA ALUM (Class of 1991), A FORMER MEMBER OF THE UCLA BRUIN MARCHING BAND, AND SUBSEQUENTLY HAVING SOME SORT OF DIRECT INVOLVEMENT IN THE RIVALRY WITH USC FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS, I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE COOL TO SHARE MY MEMORIES OF THIS CROSSTOWN WAR.
THIS IS THE FIRST OF TWO PARTS, SO READ ON AND ENJOY…
Even though I admittedly (forgive and bless me Bruin Nation for I definitely sinned here) rooted for USC’s football team in 6th grade and through much of junior high school – though I also rooted for UCLA’s basketball team as like pretty much every kid, I affixed myself to whoever won,
I’ve always had an attraction to the Bruins ever since I was single digit age; one early memory was watching UCLA playing football on TV and thinking how much I liked the powder blue and gold uniforms and the cute, cartoon-like Joe Bruin mascot.
The fact that my mother attended UCLA when I was a toddler, graduating in 1971, certainly didn’t hurt as that provided an exposure to the Westwood institution that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
By the time I got to high school and had to get serious about my college plans, it was no contest as much like Rudy with Notre Dame, it became my dream to become a Bruin.
Of course it’s stellar, top-of-the-line academic reputation was the number one reason why UCLA was my dream school, but as a young teenager into sports I must say that it was also the Bruins dominating on the football field over their Trojan counterparts during those high school years as Terry Donahue’s team beat USC all three years I was a student at Santa Monica (CA) High School, along with going to two January 1st Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl.
I was a member of the Samohi (the first two letters of Santa, Monica, and High) marching band, and it there that my first real memory of the Crosstown Rivalry ensued, predating my actually attending UCLA by quite a few years.
Like the rest of that school, loyalty to the Bruins and the Trojans was split down the middle among the members of that band, and it was during the 1982 clash at the Rose Bowl – the first time the game was ever held there and the first year the Bruins called that iconic Pasadena landmark home – that my desire to go to UCLA was solidified.
The day of that ’82 game, my band was on our school’s athletic field, getting ready for a field tournament later that night. I was in the 10th grade, and because I was an alternate was in the band office with two other guys, listening to the game – which would decide who would go to the Rose Bowl – on the radio.
My anxiety went through the roof when ‘SC scored the tying touchdown with no time left on the clock and went for the two-point conversion and the win.
You can imagine my excitement when Karl Morgan sacked Scott Tinsley; it felt so good to be able to have the bragging rights over my school mates as I specifically remember telling both a classmate who was a Trojan fan and a P.E. teacher who happened to have played for USC ten years before:
“Who won the UCLA-USC game?”
“Who went to the Rose Bowl?”
“Who won the Rose Bowl?”
A near-brawl between the Bruins and the Trojans during the 4th quarter of the 2006 game, won by UCLA 13-9 in the biggest upset in Crosstown Rivalry history. Photo courtesy of caseycallahan813.wordpress.com
Fast Forward Six Years…
After a not-very-good high school career and subsequently spending three years in a community college trying to redeem myself, my work evidentially paying off in a pronounced way due to my getting the big envelope with the letter saying, “CONGRATULATIONS! You have been accepted to UCLA…” (I even remember the date I got that manila envelope: Saturday, February 13, 1988), I found myself a member of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band that fall, enjoying myself with the new friends I was hanging with, traveling to different places with that band, and not only having the privilege to cheer for the Bruins in person, but getting to actually perform on that iconic Rose Bowl grass, where Super Bowls were played and football legends plied their trade.
The season flew by, and next thing I know it was Rivalry Week, my first as an actual Bruin, which not only consists of the main football clash but also features a number of flag football battles, including the “Blood Bowl” between the student newspapers at ‘SC and UCLA, and the “Greek Bowl”, held between the two school’s fraternities.
The two marching bands had a pre-main clash flag football game as well, called the “Band Bowl”, and it was there, a few days before the “real” game – Wednesday, November 16, 1988 to be precise – that I got my first real taste of what the Bruin-Trojan rivalry was all about.
Being that I was and still am a big guy, I was a member of the Bruin Band’s intramural flag football squad; though I was unable to play in the game due to an injury, I was about to see what was a big rivalry tradition dating back to the 1950s.
The game was held at USC’s track field (my first time on that campus), and it was during halftime of the Band Bowl – which UCLA happily won 21-7 – when it happened:
After our small group of fellow band members did their thing, the Trojan band took the field, played some tune that I didn’t recognize, and right after the last note turned around to face us, stuck their middle fingers high in the air, and screamed so loud you could hear it beyond the nearby Coliseum:
“F*** the Bruins!!”
It would have been one thing if that was all they did, but the next thing I knew several of those “SC band people got right up in some of our band’s grills, shouting many hearty “F*** yous!” and essentially displaying what their band manager described as an “…arrogance (being) part of the image we exude,” in a Los Angeles Times article years later.
Quite the personal introduction to the Crosstown Rivalry, I must say.
I could certainly see why the USC game and beating them what the UCLA community cared about above all else as far as football was concerned. Like everyone else who’s a Bruin or a Trojan, I had my emotions go through the proverbial ringer during my years as an undergraduate in Westwood.
I vividly remember the other two games during those years; the 1989 game at the Coliseum, UCLA having an uncharacteristically sorry season at 3-7 while USC had already clinched the then-Pac-10 Conference title and the Rose Bowl bid, and the 1990 game, my last one in the UCLA Marching Band, which was an absolute barn burner of a shootout.
The Bruin Marching Band’s percussion section doing some cool moves during a recent game at the Rose Bowl. Photo courtesy of uclaband.com
’89 featured what could have been the biggest upset in Crosstown Rivalry history (until 2006) if not for the Bruins’ winning field goal attempt bouncing off the cross-bar. I and the rest of the band was on the other side of the Coliseum that day and I initially thought the kick was good, seeing the referee’s arms go up – until I saw the replay on the big video screen.
The final score that day was 10-10.
The only time the UCLA-USC game had ended in a tie.
My emotions ended up being worse a year later, however, when after the Bruins took a 42-38 lead in the last minute, Trojan quarterback Todd Marinovich threw a touchdown pass to Johnnie Morton right across from me and the band with seconds left, ‘SC scoring an exciting (for them, obviously devastating for us) 45-42 triumph and forcing me and the rest of Bruin Nation to hear two trademark songs from their band, “Conquest” and “Tusk”, the Fleetwood Mac classic which features everyone in cardinal and gold screaming in unison, “U-C-L-A Sucks!”
I recall feeling numb as I was walking back to the buses in my band uniform to go back to Westwood. A member of the “Trojan Family” was walking past me, and guess what disgusting thing he said?
“Hey, good game. Better luck next year.”
Thus I ended my career as an undergraduate Bruin having never seen my beloved blue and gold football team beat ‘SC; yes, we lost the 1988 game and were forced to watch the Trojans play in the Rose Bowl while we went to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
It didn’t feel good, to say the least, but things would change with regards to Crosstown Rivalry dynamics when I graduated and became something that I’ll always be proud to be:
A UCLA alum.
PART TWO OF THIS ARTICLE, REMINISCING OF MY PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT IN THIS CROSSTOWN CLASH, WHICH WILL COVER THE 1990s TO THE PRESENT DAY, WILL APPEAR ON THIS SITE TOMORROW – HOPE YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!
Someone who should be familiar to everyone: O.J. Simpson running through the UCLA defense in the 1967 game. Photo courtesy of topbet.eu