During the offseason, we all heard about the remodeling that would be taking place with the band and the student section. Saturday night, we were all afforded the chance to see the results in person. And you know what? They stink. Flat. Out. Stink.
The student section was cut from 12,000 seats to 8,000 seats. It's a good thing only 8,000 students want to go to Trojan home games. Oh wait, that's 8,000 seniors.
When the USC football team takes the field, they're doing it as student-athletes. That's student-athletes. You're telling me that their fellow students shouldn't be there supporting them? It's completely ridiculous that current students are begging to get into these games and are being told, "You know what? Why don't you wait until you graduate and then come to some football games." And that makes sense?
Apparently it makes ‘cents' to the people in charge of the bottom line. Why let students pay $200 for an activities sticker and season tickets when you can get a non-student to drop $2,500 for Cardinal and Gold membership? That's what they would do in the pros. Winning product + increased ticket sales = increased profit.
The problem is that this isn't the pros. It might only be one step down, but according to the NCAA, that's a big step.
I'm sure that President Sample, the Athletic Department and whoever else was in charge of that decision can't hear me with the $10 gadzillion they made from season ticket sales, but the students deserve to go to their home games.
Could you imagine being a high school student and not being able to go to your home games because a bunch of people were willing to pay for your seat? You can try to spin it anyway you want, but you can't convince me that this isn't the same thing.
The best part of my four years at USC (besides going to classes and preparing for my future, Mom) was knowing that every Saturday, no matter what time I showed up, there would be a seat for me in the student section. It was there because, at the time, I was as much a part of that University as the players on the field were. We shared that bond of being students of the University of Southern California, even though they were student-athletes and I was a student-procrastinator. It saddens me to see that bond severed for so many of today's students at USC, desperate to be a part of the family and turned away because that "family" is so desperate for money.
I'll say it. The students deserve to be at these games every bit as much as the players do. For six Saturdays during the fall, the University of Southern California is put on display in the Coliseum. To not have the full University represented is like sending the players out without helmets. Something's missing.
"3,000 years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax…"
The student section upset me, but that wasn't even the worst part of the new arrangement. The worst part (by far, I might add), was glancing over at the band's new home and reading what was plastered on the wall in front of the sundeck: TROJAN NATION.
Really? 125 years of the Trojan Family and all of a sudden we have a group called the Trojan Nation? You know who else is called the "________ Nation?" Everyone! Raider Nation, Red Sox Nation, Domi nation. It's the most boring, unimaginative tag ever put on a group of fans. Who else was called a family outside of USC and the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates?
Even if the term, "Trojan Nation" is limited to the members of the sundeck, it's ridiculous to have it plastered behind the goalpost the way it was. The people sitting there are part of the Trojan "Family." Nothing more, nothing less.
"You kids today with your loud music, your Dan Fogelberg, Zima, your hula-hoops, and your Pac-Man video games..."
The list doesn't stop there.
Enter halftime. The Trojan marching band takes the field to pay tribute to, "one of the great rock bands of all time…. (who implemented a horn section)." That's right; it's…. CHICAGO.
I'll tell you what it is. It's a good thing there weren't any students there to see it, because it didn't resonate with anyone born after 1980.
Look, Dr. Arthur C. Bartner is completely awesome. I'd let him conduct my life on a daily basis. But how does he come up with these songs? Was Peter Cetera in the crowd? Is his kid in the band? Did he buy a concert's worth of season tickets?
Do you really think the band members were handed the sheet music for this weekend and screamed, "25 or 6 to 4?!? YES!!! My garage band used to jam to this song back in high school!"
No, they probably said, "Ummmm, I guess I'll choose 25."
Is it really that hard to find a popular song from the last year or two that can be broken up into horns, winds and drums? And if that fails, would anyone really object to the band playing Tusk, Conquest and Fight On! during every halftime for the rest of eternity? I wouldn't.
On top of that, having the band get picked up by microphones and blasted in through those huge speakers is horrible. First of all, it turns the band into an afterthought and secondly, the student section and everyone up to section 18 are going to need earplugs by the end of the year because those speakers are just brutal. They don't just go up to eleven; those things are turned up to about one hundred and eleven.
I haven't even gotten to the new yell leaders, but that's a whole different story, and one that doesn't even deserve the time that I'd spend on it.
Time stops for no man (especially if he's kicking off):
When the official demanded that the timekeeper move the clock from 6:27 to 6:23 after a kickoff for a touchback, was anyone else rooting for Coliseum PA guy Dennis Packer to go Otter from Animal House and launch into, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'll be brief. The issue here isn't whether we want more college football, or dislike the clock starting when the ball is kicked – we do. But you can't hold an entire stadium responsible for the behavior of a few NCAA decision makers. For if you do, shouldn't we blame the whole NCAA? And if the whole NCAA is guilty, then isn't that an indictment of the entirety of football in general? I put it to you, Ref, isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!" all while the stadium rumbled with 92,000 fans humming "The Star Spangled Banner?"
Yeah, me neither.
But seriously, the clock rules have really changed the game. It does feel like there's still another quarter to be played when it hits triple zeroes in the fourth quarter.
And why were these changes made? To limit the risk of injury because teams were playing an extra game this season? Tell that to Ryan Powdrell. His injury would have happened if the game clock counted down by minutes instead of seconds.
GOOOOOO BIIIIIIIIIIG REEEEEEEED;
The only thing more annoying than that particular Nebraska chant is hearing it for two consecutive hours on the train from Oceanside to Los Angeles.
Was I the only one who thought they were channeling Sloth from The Goonies. "Heeeey Youuuuu Guuuuuuysss." Seriously. Hey you guys. Stop it.
The only thing less intimidating than chanting in that cadence would be singing it to the tune of "Kumbaya."
Oh that's right. There was a football game too:
The Trojans looked good. They looked #2 in the country good. Nebraska's front seven was absolutely everything it was cracked up to be and the Trojan offense more than held their own. The USC running game was slowed, but that will happen in a fullback oriented offense without a fullback.
It always makes me laugh when people try to take what USC does against one team and extrapolate that into what they will do against future opponents.
What these people fail to understand is that nothing that happened against Nebraska last night can ever happen again. The same running play that went for three yards against Nebraska could go for 70 against Arizona, or anyone else on the Trojans' future schedule. The only things that can be taken from game to game are talent and mental focus. This USC team is still one of the most talented teams in the nation and there isn't a single person in the nation who can question their mental focus.
After the game, Nebraska linebacker Stewart Bradley credited USC for not making many mistakes, but added, "We didn't play our best ball."
When is that going to stop? Every single team the Trojans have beaten over the past three years has claimed that they didn't play their best, or they made too many self-inflicted mistakes.
So my question is this, Stewart: Why didn't you play your best ball? You had the entire offseason to prepare for the Trojans. It seems like Nebraska has been talking about this game for a year now. You were facing a team that hadn't lost at home in 27 games and has played for the National Championship in each of the last three seasons. It's not like the Trojans were sneaking up on you.
Did the Nebraska team come together and decide not to put forth their best effort? Did they decide to not come in mentally and physically prepared to take part in a football game against one of the nation's best teams? Or did they maybe, just maybe, get run over by a Trojan team that can get up for any team any week and overcome any mistake they make, big or small?
The Trojans' ability to treat every team the same, whether it's Stanford at home, Notre Dame on the road, or Bud Light in the Bud Bowl, is what makes them so disciplined, focused and ultimately, nearly impossible to beat.
Nebraska cornerback Andre Jones said before the game that a win over the Trojans would "slingshot" their season. Of course, after the game Jones said that this one loss wouldn't define their season. Jones also added, "I hope like hell we see them again." Easy Andre, get back to the end of the line and the Trojans will deal with you again next year.
So, Stewart, you're going to have to face the fact that you either weren't prepared to play the Trojans, you purposely didn't give your best effort, or your best effort just wasn't good enough last night to defeat a clearly superior team.
It's ‘Cary,' not ‘Carry":
The only thing that I feel needs to be addressed by the Trojan coaching staff is the kickoff return game.
I don't mind Cary Harris not breaking anything for long returns, but I'm concerned about his health. He and Terrell Thomas have been absolutely great working as the cornerbacks this season and risking an injury to Harris on a kickoff return seems silly. Harris definitely looks like a cornerback when he's returning kicks, lacking an offensive player's sense of where the hole is opening and how to find open field. As a result, Harris has taken some monster hits, which are altogether unnecessary.
Vidal Hazelton has shown that he can be a viable option at that spot and he has the mindset of an offensive playmaker who will make guys miss and find running lanes with the ball in his hand.
Keeping Harris back there is like a baseball manager having his closer start a few games every week. He is an excellent cornerback. There's no reason to put him in a position to get hurt when there are other people more suited for the job.
There's no place like home:
After spending the 2005 football season in Chicago, Saturday night was my first Trojan home game since the 2004 home finale against Notre Dame. Despite the complaints about the new student and band seating arrangements, it sure was good to be back home.
Watching the Trojans come out of the tunnel before the game is something that television can't do justice to and elicits a feeling that is incomparable to anything else in sports.
As for my personal performance, my victory sign arm needs some conditioning and my throat started getting scratchy during the second half, but it's still a long season and I'm confident that both units will come around by the Washington game. At least I know I'll be "playing my best ball."