Los Angeles is a very large city with an equally large number of local colleges and universities. Of all of those institutions of higher education only one major sports rivalry stands out — UCLA vs. USC (or USC vs. UCLA). It is visible every day on license plates and license plate holders and in the clothing worn around town.
Neckties may be cardinal with gold stripes or simply blue with gold stripes. You are either a Bruin or a Trojan (or vice versa). This is not to belittle the other institutions. They too, are entitled to their animosities, but generally not to the extent of Bruin and Trojan fans.
This is not a recent rivalry. It has existed for generations and has been passed down from father to son and mother to daughter. You could say that it is in their genes. It can be also be a very serious business matter.
It is well known that the success of any given USC and UCLA football season (or vice versa) depends on only on game — the rivalry game between the two schools. It doesn’t matter what the win/loss record of each team is before the game, the success of their season rests with the outcome of that game.
Tail Gate parties start a day early for most fans. The winning coach can be assured of job security regardless of the overall team’s record, at least for another year. The losing coach had better bring his resume up to date and circulate it rapidly, if he hasn’t already done so. In the case of Basketball the UCLA coach’s tenure is based on far more than the USC competition, however, in the case of the USC coach beating UCLA he can guarantee his return, regardless of the season record.
This also carries over into the business world. For example, I know of a UCLA graduate who applied to a local advertising agency for a position. The interviewer studied the applicant’s resume and noted that he was from UCLA. He then pointed to each of the other individuals in the office and explained that they were each a USC alumnus. Unfortunately he had no positions available at the time and would let the UCLA grad know when something opened up. That was 20 years ago and nothing has opened up as yet. The UCLA grad did, however, find another position.
In another instance I knew an extremely devoted USC graduate who was in the insurance business. He dealt only with USC alumni, no one else and was extremely successful. To his fortune or misfortune, he had a daughter who was quite large and an excellent basketball player
The insurance man assumed his daughter would attend and play for USC, but despite his pleadings, she chose to play for UCLA, where she excelled. He would have been happier if she played for Stanford or an out of state school.
As a loyal father he attended all of her home games at UCLA. He was torn. The man could not bring himself to root for UCLA, but he wanted his daughter to excel, which she did. Things got even worse when his daughter’s UCLA Bruins played against USC. Somehow he survived her four-year tenure at UCLA.
Normally alumni of both schools can co-exist socially, except that mixed marriages make it difficult. A mixed marriage in this instance is when a USC Trojan weds a UCLA Bruin.
Generally, a mixed religious marriage can function relatively well. However, a USC/UCLA merger can create numerous problems. For example, when both teams are playing opponents on television at the same time, which one do you watch? When both teams are playing opponents locally on the same day, which game do you attend? When the teams play each other locally, which tail gate party do you attend? Who do you root for? What college or colleges are your children allowed to apply to? To what scholarship funds do you donate? There are numerous other vexing decisions to be made.
I know of one three-generation family that, due to a mixed USC/UCLA marriage, limit communications between the two sides during the entire football season. In fact they have two Thanksgiving dinners, one for the UCLA side and one for the USC contingent. But things do thaw out a bit by Christmas.
It does not have to be that way if you follow the rules for peaceful UCLA/USC (or vice versa) co-existence. Those rules are:
- When in a group, even if the others appear friendly, do not discuss your school’s athletic achievements. You cannot be sure if there is an opponent around causing an unfriendly confrontation.
- When someone starts a discussion about their school’s athletic program and accomplishments, change the subject quickly with statements like, “How about those Lakers?” Or, “Do you think the Dodgers will win the pennant this year?”
- When hosting a social gathering consisting of alumni from other schools, do not show videos of your school’s recently won games.
- When attending a game wearing your school logo clothing and gear, sit in your school’s rooting section, not in that of the opponent.
- When participating in a tailgate party before a game, be sure that those around you are from your school.
- Try not to marry a student, alumnus or instructor of the other school (USC or UCLA). That only leads to trouble.Love does not conquer all.
- If you do marry someone from the other school, try sending your children to a neutral university.
- If you do marry into a family consisting of alumni from the other school and wish to have your mate remain in their will, do not wear your school’s logo or clothing when in their presence and try to avoid discussions about athletics.
- There is always another option — diplomacy. When someone boasts about the success of their school’s teams, you simply say, “I understand that your school has an outstanding program.” The words may stick in your throat and you may have difficulty getting them out, but you can try.
- After you have tried the above tactics and have been exhausted; and the stress of self constraint has worn you to a frazzle, you can try one of two things:
Seek counseling or Rebel. If you choose to rebel simply say the hell with it and be yourself again. Put on your school colors, display signs on your car, tailgate in the middle of the opposition, sit anywhere you choose in the stadium or arena and root for your team. And above all, send your children to your alma mater. The battle must go on.
- Good Luck.
Jerry Weber is a Brooklyn-born sports enthusiast who has been interested in sport his entire life. He began playing at a young age, harboring dreams of being a starting point guard, quarterback and a starting forward for the New York Ranger professional hockey team. After a year of college he entered the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged four years later. No married, he helps his children compete in sports and he has taken part in the formation of a number of sports leagues around the world, coaching a professional basketball team in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, before returning to Los Angeles. Although those leagues folded, Jerry has aspirations to continue in sports management.