The Snub of Adam Carolla and Other Musings

When I heard last week that my favorite comedian Adam Carolla was going to be doing the official coin toss for the UCLA-Washington game, I got excited. It was to be a public relations appearance on behalf of The Learning Channel - for which Carolla hosts a show. Despite the short notice, I made failed attempts to arrange an interview with him for In the past on his radio show, I have heard him go off on brilliant and hilarious football-related tangents.

An interview with him would have been solid gold.

Late Sunday night I was in my car, still recovering from the horrors of the 4th quarter loss to the Bruins. I tuned in to Carolla's radio program. He spent the opening segment talking about his experience from the UW-UCLA game. It turns out that the Washington Huskies weren't the only ones jobbed by the referees. Carolla spoke light-heartedly of being snubbed at the opening-game coin toss. As the Husky and Bruin captains converged at mid-field of the Rose Bowl, Carolla was directed toward them from the sidelines. He trod upon the green turf, approaching the assemblage at an angle.

As Carolla reached the 50-yard line, it was clear that the referees were oblivious to his presence. The UCLA and Washington captains were busy shaking hands. The head official then announced that he was about to flip the coin, and asked to the Huskies to call head or tails. Carolla realized at this point that there was a snafu and he was isolated out in no man's land. He backed up slowly a few paces. The head official proceeded to announce aloud, "Washington has won the toss and has elected to receive."

No one communicated with the referees that Carolla was supposed to be flipping the coin. No announcement of his presence was made upon the stadium P.A. system. Carolla then realized that from the perspective of the 65,000 fans in the stadium, he was just some guy in dungarees hanging out on the field. On his radio program Sunday night, he went on to decry that anyone with enough cajones could just wander freely onto the Rose Bowl field and no one would say anything. In fact, postulated Carolla, if someone dressed themselves up in a really nice suit and tie, and then slipped on a jersey from one of the participating teams, he would possess that former-player or first-round NFL pick look. From that ruse, he could confidently walk into any stadium in America (or the White House or Fort Knox for that matter) and be granted access, and maybe sign an autograph or two.

Carolla watched the first quarter from the sidelines, before heading to his seats. To his horror, he quickly discovered that they don't sell beer for Bruin games. On his radio program, he outlined the six things that bothered him about his trip to the Rose Bowl: (I'm paraphrasing)

1. They don't sell beer at Bruin games
2. They don't sell beer at Bruin games
3. They don't sell beer at Bruin games
4. They don't sell beer at Bruin games
5. They don't sell beer at Bruin games
6. The UCLA band wears the California Bear colors. And given the type of uniforms that the UCLA band was wearing, they might as long be wearing an accompanying sign that says "I'm gay."

Meanwhile, I talked on the phone Sunday afternoon with my aforementioned friend from another Pac-10 school. He had recorded the Husky-Bruin game and was breaking down portions of it while we spoke at length. We got to talking about the horrible officiating in the Pac-10 Conference. He fast-forwarded to the moment when the Kenny James touchdown was reversed and the football placed at the one-yard line. My friend put his TV on freeze-frame and studied it intensely. He said he could conclusively see that the ball never crossed the goal line, and the subsequent fumble should have resulted in the Bruins being awarded the football.

I said that this was garbage. The ruling on the field should only be overturned if it is 100% conclusive that the wrong call was made by the officials. We argued back and forth, until he finally conceded that there was a speck of a chance that a molecule of the football crossed the goal line. But he held strong to the belief that the refs blew the call. Our argument raged on until he summoned his wife from the next room to review the play.

His wife is one of the sweetest-natured people I have ever met, and yet I was delighted when she vehemently disagreed with his assessment. Quickly they were engrossed in a fifteen-minute impassioned debate over whether or not the refs blew this call-- even though neither of them have any particular allegiance to either UCLA or Washington. "I froze the screen!" he shouted to her. "Look! He didn't score! He didn't score! He didn't cross the line!" She shouted back "He only has to break the plane of the goal line! Not cross it!" They seemed to forget that I was on the phone.

As they battled, my mind wandered to the game as a whole. The Huskies had their opponent against the proverbial ropes. But they allowed UCLA an opening for escape and rejuvenation-- instead of closing in and pounding away at the bleeding cut above the eye and the cracked ribs. And when the opponent hits the canvas, you stick your foot on their throat for good measure. While the Huskies showed heart and effort, they don't have that killer instinct. As former Husky All-American Dave Hoffmann says, that type of nastiness is God-given and something that must be recruited, and can't be instilled.

I also couldn't fathom what game the referees were watching. How can a field goal that is clearly good, be ruled no good? Even my friend agreed with that, when he was done verbally tussling with his wife over the goal-line play. How can the officials change their mind on the pass interference against Husky wide receiver Sonny Shackelford? If Shackelford's route-running is impeded with at the 10-yard line, and Stanback's pass lands five yards deep in the end zone, how in God's name can they deduce that the ball is not catch-able? Especially for a speedster like Shackelford? And what of the iffy holding call that negated the beautiful touchdown run by Louis Rankin? These refereeing gaffes, along with the Husky defense's coverage breakdown in the fourth quarter, allowed the Bruins to steal a game. UCLA did not deserve to win, but did. Washington deserved to win, but didn't. The Huskies played impassioned football and did some impressive things, especially defensively in containing the Bruin offense. It is clear to see the positive impact on the team by Coach Tyrone Willingham. But a football season is again lost and there is only pride left to play for. Washington has lost fourteen of its past sixteen games. Husky football continues to pay for the sins of its past.

This loss to UCLA took a lot out of me. For a fleeting moment, I wondered how much more of this I can take. It is revealing that the outcome of a game, of which I am not a participant, and that is played mostly by pimple-faced teenagers, can so profoundly piss me off.

Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories