The year was 1988. The date – November 19th. A prototypical day in Southern California – a 66 degree temperature with clear blue skies.
The Troy Aikman-led UCLA Bruins were set to meet the Rodney Peete-quarterbacked USC Trojans. Both teams were ranked in the Top 5 in the nation, and at a robust 10 years of age, I was finally old enough to understand the gravitas of such a matchup. Basking in the afterglow of consecutive L.A. Lakers titles as well as a Dodgers World Series victory, I was on top of the world as a sports fan.
This was my city – these were my teams! Even the Los Angeles Kings were in the news, as Wayne Gretzky was acquired by the franchise, setting the world of hockey on its proverbial ear, and for the first time in the history of the sport, shifting the media attention to the City of Angels. Everything in Los Angeles sports came up Roses. . .quite literally in this case, as the matchup at the RoseBowl would determine the Pac-10 representative in the de facto National Title game.
My parents – both ardent Los Angelenos – hosted a get-together at our house to watch the ballgame. About 15 adults showed up, as well as four of my friends. The house was divided into rooting sections; about half for the Trojans, and half for the Bruins. Though the Trojans were slightly favored, Rodney Peete came down with a nasty case of the measles prior to the game and was questionable, leaving Pat O’Hara as the potential QB for the biggest game in Pasadena in a decade. Terry Donahue and Larry Smith legends already, were set to meet to determine once and for all who really was the supreme team in Los Angeles.
As my parents’ guests arrived one-by-one, the news came straight from the ‘hood: Rodney Peete can play! His Heisman hopes – as well as the dreams of the Trojan faithful – are still alive, and gosh darn it, he’s going to lead them to victory. Well, it was at this moment that destiny smiled upon me. With 19 guests situated in their respective sections, the count (not to be confused with The Count) was 10 Bruins fans and nine Trojans supporters. For no other reason than my obsessive compulsive need for symmetry and balance, I sat in the USC section.
Lo and behold, the Sons of Tommy Trojan led a dramatic 31-22 victory and claimed the Victory Bell for another year.
Me? I was neither happy nor sad for the Trojans, per se, but being able to bask in the afterglow of more Los Angeles revelry etched a permanently positive memory in my subconscious, and since that day I can not root against my fellow Angelenos.