People always wonder how I write these after the Trojans lose. At times, I just enjoy spinning the story. At times, I admit, it is hard to find something to say. After this game, however, I find myself teeming with things to say. I will try to keep this brief though. After all, the charcuterie plate is out and my fingers would rather be eating fine cured meats and artisanal cheeses than typing. You feel me.
First off, hats off to ASU, who for the first time in over a decade beat USC. They did so at home as the favored team and they took care of business. They withstood USC’s comeback to take a second half lead and capitalized on USC’s mistakes, namely a few costly penalties and an inexcusable four turnovers. Four turnovers is more inexcusable than allowing you bear slave to eat at the dinner table with you instead of forcing him to catch salmon for you. I mean, who does that?
Really, I have only good things to say about ASU’s win on the field. They played the better game and as Trojans, we should just own up and figure out how we can go 4-1 next week. At 3-1 also, that’s what ASU will be doing as well.
What I want to bring up today is ESPN LA’s Arash Markazi’s ridiculous piece “Trojans face new reality under Kiffin”. Let me paraphrase it for you because your time is best spent reading things like the label of a bottle of Budweiser or warnings on cigarette packs. This article was everything that is wrong with college sports, sports media and possibly the world in general.
The gist of this article is that ASU didn’t celebrate by storming the field and USC didn’t act shocked to lose the game on Saturday. It was about how perhaps beating USC is too commonplace now and we are not a nationally relevant program. Basically, under Kiffin, beating USC is no big deal and ASU knew it.
Now, working in digital, I know Mr. Markazi didn’t get to see the screen cap for the embedded video that would be front and center on his post prior to putting it up, but check it out:
Of course, nothing screams we don’t care that we beat USC for the first time in 9 years like our star player and sure-fire first round NFL draft pick Vontaze Burfict dumping a celebratory jug of Gatorade on his coach. Nothing screams bored like doing that and nothing screams “using media to make my point” like an article about a laisse-faire win like a Gatorade shower displayed in the middle of it.
Good work, mothership.
Let’s just get it straight. Teams don’t just go on runs like Pete Carroll’s Trojans did. Teams also don’t go 8-5 when they get slapped with sanctions. Teams don’t repeatedly get top 10 recruiting classes when they are not nationally relevant. USC finished 3rd in the Pac-10 last year, but the Markazi’s of the world would have you believe they were a paltry 1-12 team.
I don’t get it. Piling on is not journalism.
I am not a journalist, I am not even a sports analyst. I’m a writer. I am here to entertain you. That’s why you don’t see my work on ESPN (well, that and I don’t spell check). I really admire the work that Pedro Moura does, he covers the team. To that point, I have no personal grudge with Mr. Markazi, who I am sure is a fine writer. I just had to point out how disrespectful this take was to ASU as well. While ASU was favored to win, USC was ranked in the top 25 (not anymore).
Look, if you know ASU, the reason they didn’t rush the field was because they were hustling their attractive asses over to Mill Avenue to get into a bar to celebrate. Anytime you fail to beat an opponent for a decade and than do it, you’re dealing with a big deal. There’s a Gatorade bath to prove it.
There was no mention of the fact that any team who turns it over 4 times loses. There was no mention that some of T.J. McDonald’s penalties could have been referred to as questionable. It doesn’t matter, the team that played better won. Why stretch to make this a doomsday article? I keep reading the same tired article. USC is dead. It’s over. Sanctions destroyed the school. Attendance is down.
It’s grasping for straws because we’ve become a culture that needs everything to ladder up to something bigger. It can’t just be a football game where one team won. Articles like this, and Markazi is not the only culprit (or even a big culprit, in fairness to him), are the reason dynasties have become pedestrian. Winning once means nothing now. We’ve inflated the “win” and made it mean less. I am here to say it needs to mean everything. For ASU, they got a great win. For USC, a loss that should hurt.
We know this isn’t the 2005 Trojans. But that said, it’s like Billy Beane’s character in Moneyball said. It’s not enough to do a good job. If you don’t win, they will just rip it down because it is easier to do that than come up with something compelling.
USC could end up winning out. ASU could lose to Utah by 40 points and then drop the rivalry game with Zona and USC could win the south. Who knows? All I know is it won’t be enough. The doomsday article will forever be the currency of 24 hour news media. The same media who took the whole season to figure out what Matt Kemp was doing and now can’t shut up about it.
Here’s the truth. People want the human story. In the end, USC fans are not angry this isn’t the 2005 Trojans. They are proud the core of the 2011 Trojans didn’t transfer when the NCAA unfairly threw the book at them while throwing a couple pages at Ohio State and Miami and you name it. USC fans are proud that in a year with nothing to play for, they qualified for a bowl and finished 3rd in the Pac-10. They are proud of their quarterback who could have gone anywhere and didn’t.
And whatever you think of Kiffin, he took a job the media called cancer and he recruited. He’s fighting the fight in a majestic white visor and riding out the storm. Maybe he’s an interim coach. I don’t know, but he’s the guy we gave the lantern to and told us to guide us through the fog. Pardon me if I don’t go bailing overboard or lamenting a loss where we gave the ball up 4 times on the road and lost. It’s football, it happens.
It didn’t happen to the 2005 Trojans much, but the media told us that’s because we were cheats. So what is it, ESPN? Is there shame in a 3rd place finish of 8-5 when everyone could have left? Or was it more honorable to never lose and be accused of cheating every day?
The answer is that the joy comes from the games, not the dynasties, because we’re taught to root against dynasties and then bash teams that win once for not defending. It’s about getting us to read the stories and comment, and I guess I fell into that trap today. But I hope Arrogant Nation learned something from this uncharacteristically dry post of mine. I promise to talk of killing bears and bourbon come Thursday.
I once emailed some writing to Plaschke that he gave me some good notes on (way before the blog) when I said that had the Patriots gone undefeated, it would have been all of five minutes before ESPN was writing about their chances of repeating. We are an instant gratification nation and we’ve forgotten the value of a victory. I say no more. Trojans, savor our three wins and do everything to appreciate the likely 5-6 more we will claim. We’re not doing it for ESPN or the NCAA. We’re doing it for ourselves.
In the meantime, think of this quote from Macbeth that I always think of when I read an article about piling on. “…it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” That was not directed at Mr. Markazi, who is not an idiot. It was directed to the sports consuming public who is forgetting that dynasties are special and not commonplace, and victories are still divine and and losses are still painful. Somehow I doubt our Trojans were listless after that loss.
Of course, as you can see, ASU were the picture of calm, cool and collected after the win:
See you Thursday, bearhunters. It’s going to be a good week. We got the Wildcats this weekend.