I can give you the date and hour of each major milestone in my life. The reason I can do that is because of sports. I remember what happened in sports that day and hour. And because of the records that are kept in sports that gives me an exact chronology of my life.
USC/ND Nov 28, 1964: I was playing ping pong with the girl of my dreams, when my dad called and said he had gotten off early and had grabbed us a couple of tickets for the game and a ride on the ND rooter bus leaving from Long Beach. I got a ride to downtown Long Beach and off we went but undercover. Dad's friend was a devout catholic and Notre Dame fan and we didn't want to rock the boat.
ND was ranked No.1 at 9-0 and clearly the best team in the country. They had that year's Heisman trophy winner in QB John Huarte and wide receiver Jack Snow. But USC had a good team and a chance for the Rose Bowl if they won.
ND fans were confident and in high spirits, and dad and I were miserable at halftime because it was 17-0 ND. USC came back in the second-half and won the game on a TD pass from Craig Fertig to Rod Sherman with a little over two minutes to go.
Dad and I often said that the bus ride home was one of the most joyful times we ever had together. Sitting on that rooter bus, in the middle of all that Irish grief, was a good as it gets. But then we got home and found out the AAWU had picked Oregon State as its Rose Bowl representative.
USC/ND Nov 29 1952: I was outside playing basketball when my dad called me in to listen to the game. USC was 9-0, ranked No.2 and playing a seventh ranked Frank Leahy led ND team. ND had an incredible run under Frank Leahy after the war and ruled college football at the time.
Cal and ND were the two college powerhouses when I was a small boy, and I had really gotten excited about the Trojans after Frank Gifford led them to victory over #1 Cal in 1951.
USC ran off 9 straight in 1952 and had just destroyed everyone until a close victory over a Red Sander's led UCLA team 14-12. South Bend was frozen solid for the game that day and USC couldn't do anything. ND won 9-0 and I learned about the grief that comes along with loving and supporting a team.
After a couple of ice box games in November at South Bend during the 50's, USC and ND agreed to play the South Bend games in October and play in Los Angeles during November.
USC/ND Oct 14, 1967: I remember playing Risk all night at one of the frat houses on Greek row at USC. The year before ND had killed USC 51-0 with a team that looked like it belonged in the NFL. USC had John McKay, a good defense, and OJ Simpson in 1967. But even though the Trojans were ranked #1 and ND #5 the Irish were favored in the game. USC hadn't won in South Bend since 1939.
I'd never seen USC win a game in South Bend. But Trojan linebacker Adrian Young intercepted 4 passes and the defense picked off 7 all together as USC beat a good ND team 24-7. It was pure joy. And along with the victory I had also won a lot of money off the frat boys playing Risk.
1967 was a magical year with the players being my age and knowing and playing with so many of them. USC 21, UCLA 20 says it all.
USC/ND Nov 30, 1974: The 1974 season had started with Pat Haden throwing five interceptions at Arkansas and USC losing 22-7. It was miserable. Then the team caught fire and played well winning 5 in a row before a 15-15 tie with Cal at home that should have never happened. USC then won three straight and were ranked 6th going into the game against the 5th ranked Irish.
This was Ara Parseghian's last year at ND. His nerves had frayed and he couldn't sleep without sleeping pills. It was a must game for both teams and ND had the #1 defense going into the game.
The Irish pushed the Trojans all over the field in the first half and it was just dead in there until Anthony Davis caught a short swing pass and scored right before the half to make it 24-6. I didn't have a clue of what would happen in the second-half. Anthony Davis ran the second-half kickoff back 102 yards. And then on USC's kickoff, the ND return man mishandled the ball ran sideways at the 5 yard line and was destroyed by a USC backup LB, and the coliseum just went crazy. Everyone was on their feet screaming and they never sat down again.
It was Trojan heaven as USC scored 55 straight points against the best defense in the country in 17 minutes. And it wasn't like ND was giving USC anything. USC still had trouble running the ball, ND wasn't missing tackles, but the Trojans were lifted to the most incredible performance I've ever seen in sports. It was like Kirk Gibson's home run for 17 minutes.
Rudy was playing for ND and Ara Parseghian that year. But he wasn't on the traveling squad. That 17 minutes in the coliseum pushed Ara over the edge and he resigned. It cost Rudy the promise Ara gave to him that he could suit up the following year.
By the way, in the movie when Rudy was a boy and they sit down to watch the ND game. It was the 1964 USC/ND games and it is Huarte and Snow on the TV Screen. I'm sure that game gave all them all indigestion.
USC/ND Nov 30, 2002: USC was trailing ND 13-10 despite clearly outplaying them. With time running out Carson Palmer hit Mike Williams on a post pattern for a TD. USC sprinted off the field of the Coliseum and ND crawled off. USC then came out in the second-half and destroyed ND. The Trojans racked up over 600 yards to the Irish 110. It was pure glory.
Was it better than the 2005 Bush push game? It was for me. I could see that the worm had turned and USC was going to have ND under its foot for awhile. It can't last long enough for me.
I'm looking for the 2009 USC Trojans to get a big win against Jimmy Clausen and the upstart Irish again this year. I'm hoping to watch Lucifer Holtz squirm after the game. And I'll probably be thinking of that bus ride home with dad in 1964 and be wishing he could be part of all this too.
I guess he is, because my dad and the USC Trojans are so much a part of me.
Damian Williams and the USC Trojans are looking for another memorable win against ND.