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Core Samples

Back during the medieval days of the sport, when they wore leather helmets and the cheerleaders were caked in peat moss, they actually had sudden-death playoffs. Sometimes these affairs lasted into the next day and into the next week and into the next year. Who can forget that classic battle between the House of York and the House of Lancaster? It was the "game of the century" and lasted for much of it. Kickoff took place sometime in 1455 and it wasn’t until 1487 that the clock stopped ticking. Fans were much more patient in those days, as were general managers. Seldom was a coach fired during the season. Decapitated, yes, but not let go while still under contract. Historians refer to it as the "Wars of the Roses." In these modern times, we try not to let these disagreements drag on. We put representatives of our allegiances out on the field of battle and allow them to duke it out and within four hours or so, depending on commercials and half-time celebrations, we usually have a winner Tonight, we’ll have our own "war of the roses" and we’ll talk trash and eat, drink and be merry. In the aftermath, as in the old days, there will be much gloating and eating of crow, depending upon the outcome. We’ve certainly come a long way. Now is the time for personal pronouns to enter the fray. "My" USC Trojans will be getting down and dirty with the Longhorns of the University of Texas in a minor dispute over which team is the national champion. It is "for all the marbles," as they say. There will be no quarter given — nor asked for. And that’s just around the wet bar. Cell phone action will also be a barometer of how things are going score-wise. With each first down or bad call, taunts and whines will fly. Not to mention the shrimp that might very well find itself splattered upon the TV screen when ineptness of any sort raises its ugly head. This game is so big that my main man Henry refuses to join any of the satellite gatherings where his fellow Trojan fans will be holding forth. And it’s not just because of how atrociously we sing the "fight song." He has been through this more times than he cares to remember and he just doesn’t care to inflict himself upon the rest of us and vice versa. I understand completely. It has only been during recent years that anyone has cared to share this sacred space with me. You might say that, over the years, I developed a reputation for poor sportsmanship, failure to keep things in perspective, and tantrum throwing when things didn’t go my team’s way. But now I see the bigger picture. Life will go on if the Trojans lay an egg. I mean, what kind of karma does the school that gave us O.J. Simpson and Donald Segretti have going for it, anyway? And besides that, all my favorite Austin musicians will probably be rooting for Texas. Do I want potential governor Kinky Freidman and his spiritual advisor Billy Joe Shaver to go through angst just because their team happened to be found wanting during this most important call-to-arms? Do I want Willy’s weed to not burn brightly in his rosewood bowl and Waylon’s son Shooter to suffer a frown? Well, yes! That’s exactly what I’m after. I want USC to come out on top even if it takes divine intervention as it did at Notre Dame Stadium a couple of months back – even if it takes a bad call by the referees, in fact, most especially if it takes a bad call. I’m getting to think more and more like that Texas fan from Crawford: Victory first, then honor, if there is any left to go around. The fact that this column will still be in newsstands for a couple of days following the game is a gamble of sorts on my part. Not that friends who might wish ill of me and mine ever read this drivel but there is the off chance that, while throwing out coffee grounds or leavings from the bottom of a bird cage, they might catch a glimpse of the subject matter. You see, this Texas squad is awesomely big and fast and motivated. And it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that on a particular given day, they were a bit much for my boys in cardinal and gold. The banter has been hot and heavy on both sides and that’s because each team has plenty to cheer about. Many see the Trojans as having used up all of their nine lives this year in remaining undefeated and extending their winning streak to 34 games over three seasons. Although the Irish didn’t win, you couldn’t say Notre Dame didn’t "beat" them. And Fresno State, who I believe has lost three in a row at this point, gave them way more than they bargained for before coming up short. Other omens working against Southern Cal are their proclivity to fall behind early and depend on their famous second-half comebacks and their inability on special teams to either get the "big play" or prevent their opponents from doing so. Pundits also see their defense as suspect, relying too much on turnovers. Oh, say it ain’t so! For the Heber Valley Trojan Fan Club — whose collective time spent in any college classroom is probably somewhere under an hour — this is what we live for. We will have our game faces on and be flaunting our colors. There will be noise coming from over our way, you can count on that. And if we win, no matter how, there will be joy. And if we lose, there will be gloom. But this is what it’s all about. The Big Game! Your very good team against their very good team. No lead will be large enough for either side. For the team ahead, there will always be way too much time on the clock. But we can handle it. It’s the War of the Roses! And we’ve been here before.


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