Face It UCLA: USC Owns Los Angeles
A billboard promoting USC football located in Westwood near the UCLA campus has been covered, Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. Apparently, Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley and the words “WE PLAY TO FINISH” (the “LA” in “PLAY” emphasized) were a little too much for the Bruins to handle.
Last November, in the anticipated cross-town matchup, USC steamrolled, no, flattened—really, a slew of adjectives along the lines of destroyed, massacred, obliterated is more than appropriate here—the Bruins in a 50-0 victory. And either Barkley’s sky-high visage or the nightmares of cardinal and gold were too fresh for the billboard to be allowed so close to the UCLA campus.
While this is clearly a matter of school pride, it might be necessary to view the controversy from a different perspective: a stake claiming the city of Los Angeles.
USC has always had a reputation for producing strong athletes on the west coast, but if we face the facts, big Midwest and Southern schools produce bigger names—or at least more media attention.
This year, USC is ranked No. 1 in the AP Preseason Poll, No. 3 in USA Today and No. 1 by ESPN.com’s Power Rankings. This year, Los Angeles commands attention with other storied franchises like LSU and Alabama.
Perhaps, UCLA needs to bite its tongue and accept that a national audience, a much more attentive national audience, will be tuning in to watch its heated rival vie for a spot in a major bowl game this season (which is more than UCLA can even afford to dream about). USC will be representing Los Angeles on the NCAA stage and that gives the whole city an added dose of publicity, and—hopefully—a little extra prestige.
But then again, maybe this is a pride issue. Who would win Battle: Los Angeles? Right now, it’s no contest. UCLA will have to take a backseat as its rival establishes itself yet again as the better of the two SoCal schools. Perhaps the billboard hovering over the Westwood neighborhood is an all too symbolic reminder of that solemn fact. In that case, it makes sense that there would be an outcry about the billboard’s installation so close to campus; there might not be as much protest if it wasn’t so abundantly clear that the USC football team is far superior.
The structure of college sports sustains itself by feeding off the spirit and pride of its fan base. It’s clear that the Bruins’ wounds haven’t quite healed. So, in the nature of good, old-fashioned rivalry, the Bruins know USC’s performance record. They know that USC is better and that they can’t compete with the media attention their cross-town rival will be receiving this fall. They only have one chance to redeem themselves.
And their reaction to a soaring billboard boasting the image of what represented their slaughter last year proves one thing: they’re scared of Barkley and the Trojans and what the team might do this November when they invade the Rose Bowl.