Arrogant Game Recap: Arizona State

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.

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24 Comments

Filed under Rants and Musings

24 responses to “Arrogant Game Recap: Arizona State

  1. Well said, Zack. Fight on and Beat the Wildcats!

  2. Juan Samartin

    Always enjoy your articles, whether you spell-check or not. This one was excellent. Not a big fan of the “Visor” but he’s got a difficult task ahead.
    Keep up the excellent work.

  3. Emily

    can i get an amen

  4. Gaelle Gralnek

    Classy post and legitimate points, well made. Go pound the crap out of the Mildkitties.

    A Sundevil

  5. Arash Markazi

    Zack, thanks for the thoughtful response to my column. You make some good points. I guess it’s important to note the role of a post-game column here as opposed to a straight game recap with the score, stats, player/coach reaction you had mentioned. I guess the reason columns illicit the responses they do sometimes is because they are largely based on opinions and observations and we don’t always agree on those. Sure, I could tell you it was just one loss, it’s a long season, the players are going to take it one day at a time and get back on the horse, etc., etc. but that wouldn’t make for much of a column and I’m sure you’d agree it wouldn’t make for an exciting blog either.

    I saw Dennis Erickson get that Gatorade shower from Vontaze Burfict and wasn’t surprised by it. Coaches and coordinators get Gatorade showers all the time now. Denver Broncos coach John Fox got one last week after beating the Cincinnati Bengals. A winless coach will get one for finally winning a game, a defensive coordinator will get one if his unit posts a shutout, I’ve even seen a team manager get one at the end of a long season. Erickson and Burifect talked all week about keeping your composure after what Matt Barkley said about him and after the way he played and posting a 21-point win, I expected him to do that. I certainly don’t think Gatorade showers are barometers for signature wins though.

    If this was a couple of years ago, Arizona State fans would have certainly covered the field after the game and gathered around the players as they walked off. I lived in Tempe for two years and covered the Sun Devils and have seen them rush the field plenty (OK, maybe not plenty) of times after signature wins over ranked teams but Saturday’s win wasn’t one of them.

    It was surprising there wasn’t a bigger reaction from Arizona State’s fans or players after the game. Even last season when USC went 8-5, Oregon State and Stanford fans rushed the field after the game but those days seem to be gone and for someone who has covered USC for the past decade that stuck out to me after the game.

    Maybe that is to be expected for a team on probation but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth noting. I thought USC should have been better than they were in 2009, 2010 and will no doubt think the same after this season because the real headaches for this team will begin next year when they will have to deal with 10 less scholarships per year over the next three years. The pain of seeing local players over the next three years who wanted to go to USC but can’t because of a number crunch go to other Pac-12 schools will be far more painful than missing out on the Holiday Bowl or Alamo Bowl.

    I also don’t think simply being on probation is a reason to believe a team like USC shouldn’t be better than 8-5 or 8-4. In 1993, Auburn went undefeated (11-0) despite being banned from TV and the post-season and suffering reduced scholarships. Five polls named them the national champions and the AP had the Tigers finishing No. 4 despite being the only undefeated team in the country. I know USC players began the last two seasons with a similar season in mind.

    I give Kiffin credit for recruiting well but honestly Paul Hackett was pulling in great classes when he was at USC (Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu). Not to take anything away from Kiffin, but recruiting should be the easiest part of the job as the USC football coach. Coaching that talent once they get on campus is the hard part. Just as Steve Lavin about his days as UCLA’s basketball coach.

    Anyway, to quote another line from Macbeth “…what’s done is done.” Keep up the good work.

  6. Reggie Bush

    Perhaps, ASU players and coaches don’t know what the rest of the football world does? usc, is an avarage/unranked football team, led by a headcoach who has never won a bowl game, with “5 star,” athletes that are as spoiled as the rest of the student body (why would they leave, a bowl ban??? when they’re getting range rovers). Finishing third in the Pac-10 last year… Wow give these guys a medal. Beating usc is not something to celebrate, it’s something to expect.

  7. trojan lady

    has anyone, Mr. Markazi in particular, considered that there was possibly no epic storming of the field because of the momentum of the event? By the time the game was over, they had already run all over us & done their celebrating. It was no close game where they came through with minutes left and students stormed the field. It was clear we were going to lose with many, many painful minutes left, and from what I saw on my TV, the student did their fair share of acting like it was a very big deal in those minutes in the stands. Just a thought.

  8. First, let me apologize to you Zack, for my knee-jerk reaction to the loss, and essentially telling you “good luck trying to spin this one into a ‘win in arrogance’ for us”, on Facebook, which you ultimately removed, rightfully so…
    This was one of your bests posts, and just wanted to basically say that perhaps you missed your true calling…no, you are not a journalist, or ESPN writer. However, when I watch shows such as PTI, or Around the Horn, I find myself wondering what the (sports) world would be like if you had this type of platform to promote your viewpoints. I think you’d make the world a better place, my man. But fear not bear fighter, at the very least, you make the internet a better place….keep up the good work. You’re a true visionary!!

  9. It’s Matt Barkley’s chin fuzz. Every QB since Pete Carroll is usually clean shaven for the game. The day he showed up sporting facial hair, the game went to the crapper. I didn’t recall Palmer but I started noticing it with Leinart, Sanchez, Booty (didn’t he broke his pinky that game, even?), and now, Matty B’s attempt at a soup catcher.

    USC QB Facial Hair Curse, it does exist.

  10. Fan

    Nice article. I hope more fans read articles like this. USC will be back. I think there alot of positive in this game, despite not converting n the red zone and having four turnovers USC was not out f the game until with seven minutes left.

  11. @”Matt L”

    I may have a last name that’s an easy target for someone with a middle-school-level education, but at least I’m not a fucking coward, who has to use a pseudonym to talk shit.

    Joe McKnight is ONE DUDE that got someone to co-sign a loan for a used car. It’s definitely a violation, but don’t overstate your case. It makes you look like a tool.

  12. I read, and laugh, and get fired up reading all of your posts. Its become part of the Trojan football season for me. However, this one is my favorite (okay, maybe my second favorite – Stanford’s “least arrogant google image search” from last year was so funny that its arrogant you’re not a comedian).

    What you said about the players sticking around is dead on. Our guys aren’t pay for play – they are honorable kids who stand by their word. They didn’t let their teammates down, they didn’t let the rest of us down either. That’s why USC doesn’t need a comeback – its the reason while we are still here. Its the reason I’ll be 8 arrogant rows from the field this Saturday as always.

  13. Die Hard USC Fan

    Zack, I respect you SO MUCH for this article. Your posts make me laugh on a regular basis, but this absolutely goes to show how much commenter “Big Balls Pete” (blasphemous use of the name) is completely out of touch. USC is the HOME of die hard fans. Sure, I always expect us to win, but that’s just having high standards, something worth playing for. I love our guys, and always will, whether we have a dynasty, or a “forgettable” season or an absolutely rubbish one. It’s about the game! Like you said, and exactly what “Fight On” is all about. We don’t say “Win On or I’m never watching.” Our Trojan Family. Found no where else. Fight On!!

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