Sometimes, late at night, when I lie in my bed trying to sleep, I hear it. The song comes into my head. And I hear it over and over and over again. And once I hear it, it won't go away. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I can't get that song out of my head. And I lay there clutching the sheets, in a cold sweat, and terrorized by the song.
No, it's not "Who Let The Dogs Out?" It's worse. Far, far worse. It's the song that strikes fear and dread in every sane college football fan.
And if you've been to any college football games involving a certain team from South Central Los Angeles, you've heard the song too. And if you haven't heard the song before and you're coming to Stanford Stadium, you'll hear it. About 743 times.
It's called "Tribute to Troy". It's only three chords. And the U$C band plays it to death.
If U$C gains 20 yards, they strike it up. If U$C's defense gives up a two-yard run, they play it. If U$C gets called for pass interference, you'll hear it. This is the only song they know; it's boring and it's slow. Funny how a song that consists of merely three chords can become, hands down, the most insipid song in college sports.
You would think that I would like a song called "Tribute to Troy."
It's time once again for Stanford's annual showdown with the U$C Trojans, a week in which emotions generally run high on The Farm. In basketball, there's no team I enjoy watching Stanford beat more than UCLA. In football, there's no team I enjoy watching Stanford beat more than the team from that place Bill Walsh once referred to as "that think tank on Figueroa."
Speaking of Walsh, here's what he told his troops before the Card faced U$C in 1992: "This team we're playing is yesterday. Look at that band--silly ass outfits with the skirts on guys who play those stupid tubas. It's a team of the sixties trying to hold on to the past. Knock their ass off and take pride in it. You can't be awed by that sorry group--hairy legs, little skirts and those tubas. They're like an old movie you see at midnight. You're watching ‘Quo Vadis' or something. See their ridiculous alums out there. They all want to think they're from Hollywood. Look how they're dressed. Fifty-year old women with miniskirts."
Couldn't have said it better myself. They didn't call him "The Genius" for nothing!
As I explained in the first Clardy's Corner, I first learned to truly loathe U$C during Stanford's game down at the Coliseum in 1995. Early in the second quarter, everything was great. Card led, 16-0. Dana Bible, of all people, had just whipped out the fake reverse and the bomb from Mark Butterfield to Mark Harris for the 60-yard score. Kwame Ellis was making Keyshawn Johnson disappear.
Then things started to go wrong. The Trojans fought on and had a 25-24 lead with six minutes to play. Stanford put together a courageous drive to retake the lead, but the two-point conversion was dropped in the endzone. Then Keyshawn suddenly reappeared, making some key catches on the Trojans' go-ahead touchdown drive. 31-30, U$C. Mark Butterfield's Hail Mary pass was just short of Marlon Evans' fingertips in the endzone at the gun, and "Conquest" blared all throughout the Coliseum. Heartbreaker. I still remember the sights, the sounds, all like it was yesterday.
Accordingly, I'm more emotionally fired up during U$C week than I am during any other point in the season. And even with the Trojans' good fortunes and the Card's misfortunes in 2002, this season is still no different.
Before we go any further, though, let me be honest here. Is U$C's tradition of football excellence enviable? I don't think there's any doubt about that. Howard Jones. John McKay. Mike Garrett. The Juice. Ronnie Lott. Junior Seau. Student Body Left. Student Body Right. National championships. The list goes on. A list that's been crammed down our throats every chance TrojanFan gets, mind you, but it's a mighty impressive list nonetheless.
I think Stanford unquestionably has one of the more storied programs in the Pac-10, and certainly there's no shortage of historical items to be proud of when it comes to the cardinal and white. But when it comes to the cardinal and gold, I think we'd all have to agree that U$C's football tradition blows everyone else in the Pac-10 (and, perhaps outside of Notre Dame, everyone else in the country) out of the water.
But do they have to throw their "excellence" in everyone's faces? Do they have to take themselves so seriously, yet be so superficial about it? Do they have to be so pompous and arrogant about everything? They haven't won a national championship since 1978, but you wouldn't know it.
Speaking of Notre Dame, many dislike the Fighting Irish because of the very same reasons. Both programs have "it" (and, to quote Louis Armstrong, if you have to ask what "it" is, you'll never know). To me, though, there's a slight, almost imperceptible distinction that makes all the difference in the world between Notre Dame and U$C. You may have "it", but it's what you do with "it" that counts. When "it" works, you have the ceremony that surrounds Notre Dame football. When "it" doesn't work, you have the cornball that surrounds U$C football.
And when U$C and Notre Dame play each other…man, that's like Darth Vader vs. General Zod. Who do you root for there?
Over the past few years we saw the ugly (uglier?) side of U$C Trojan fans (much like we're kind of seeing the ugly side of Stanford fans now). And for good reason. The Trojans had hit some pretty embarrassing lows lately, from athletic director Mike Garrett firing former head coach John Robinson via the coach's answering machine to some head-scratching losses, mostly under Robinson's replacement Paul Hackett. It was a common sight to see folks fleeing the Coliseum to their cars (complete with the "U$C Alumni" license plate frames), disgusted with the game and facing a torturous drive down the 10.
Stanford needs a win to turn this season around and finish up this season on a positive note. What better way for the Cardinal to do that than against the high-flying Trojans? Wouldn't it be cool to throw a monkey wrench into the Trojans' upper-tier bowl plans? Wouldn't it be great to see all the U$C alumni license plates streaming out of the campus early, disgusted with the game and facing a long drive back down to SoCal? Wouldn't it be awesome to hear nothing but silence from that U$C band?
If that happens, I'll sleep much better at night.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
During last weekend's postgame show from Eugene, Kwame Harris said, "I think we're the best 2-6 team in the country." Kwame, you're a great representative of the program, I love watching you play, and I like the way you think, but (and I really hate to say this) 2-6 is 2-6…
Runner-up for the quote of the week, courtesy of U$C freshman wide receiver Mike Williams, who addressed his struggles in adjusting to being a student-athlete: "The hard part is finding time to do the work. The readings and stuff like that. I like school, but any player will tell you they would rather be playing football than in class. Otherwise, Duke would be the best team."
The quote of the week, courtesy my