Jay Meehan: Trojans and Utes
It’s ten years ago and it’s two years ago and it’s this upcoming Friday evening. Over and over, these events seem to take on a cinematic component, playing out as if on the big screen with their own separate sidebars.
What we’re talking about are the pep rallies for my favorite college football team, the University of Southern California Trojans, that occur in Park City whenever the team and band and their official and unofficial entourages journey to northern Utah to take on either the BYU Cougars or the University of Utah Utes.
I suppose it could be the fact that Park City has always marketed itself, with subtlety and otherwise, as not really "being part of Utah," that causes them to feel more comfortable amid the gauntlet of saloons that border both sides of our main drag.
Back in 2004, when a huge USC contingent showed up for an alumni association fundraiser for the Trojan Marching Band in the Memorial Building prior to their game the following night in Provo, the welcome, mostly because they were playing BYU, was quite supportive.
It sort of followed the old adage that, although their favorite team might well have been the Utah Utes, their second favorite team was whoever was playing BYU.
To participants sporting USC colors that day, the cinematic vibe was as if they were in a newsreel of U.S. troops marching through Paris to Lafayette’s tomb back in ’45. Or, maybe better yet, with Ernest Hemingway when he broke off from the main bunch that day to "liberate" the bar at the Ritz Hotel.
The sense of welcome would be somewhat different when the Trojans arrived in town to celebrate their traditions with another band-led march and pep rally in 2012, however. This time they were Pac-12 Southern Division rivals of the University of Utah, a much more popular bunch in Park City than BYU.
In a manner similar to how charging through the gates for a front-and-center perch at Red Butte Garden would cause me to feel like an extra in "Braveheart," following the USC Trojan Marching Band down Main Street that day had me feeling not unlike one of Henri Charrière’s fellow convicts as they were marched through town to board a ship on their way to the prisons of French Guiana in "Papillon."
The sense that more than a few of my friends would have thoroughly enjoyed clasping me in irons and throwing me in the hold became ever more evident the closer we came to my favorite Main Street haunt, the No-Name Saloon. Being a huge Utah fan myself, I couldn’t blame them one bit. But, that being said, although I never actually attended USC, I am a died-in-the-wool Trojan fan and must be true to my school.
So here we go again! USC fans are already showing up in Park City and we will be in place at 5 p.m. Friday evening up around the Brew Pub with game faces on ready to follow about a dozen or so members of the marching band down to the Trolley turn-around on lower Main Street.
As in previous stops, we’ll probably get their rousing rendition of "Tusk" again (they were in the Fleetwood Mac video back in the day). Possibly, "Heartbreaker" and their spot-on Jump-Swing medley might get a dusting off, also. I hear there’s a member of the unofficial Heber City chapter of the Trojan Fan Club that is jonesin’ for the latter.
No matter how much fun I have at the Trojan pep rally on Friday in Park City, however, the events that will no-doubt unfold beginning around 8 p.m. the following night down on the turf of the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium will be somewhat less so. That will be one anxiety-rich environment.
Coach Wittingham’s Utes are coming into the matchup at 5 wins and 1 loss for the season (2-1 in conference) while ex-BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian has the Trojans at 5 and 2 (4-1). None of that matters much, however, when you factor in USC’s continued inability to produce in the fourth quarter, for a variety of reasons, along with it being a road game at altitude.
What I’m saying is that the Trojans flat-out got their work cut out for them. Utah is a damn good team with an hysterically motivated fan base and a win Saturday would go a long way toward them taking that next step upward in the national scheme of things. Whichever team’s offense can solve the other team’s defense for 60 minutes will probably come away with the win. Mucho profundo, eh?
In the meantime, I’ve got to get my game face on and my "1967 Trojan National Championship" T-shirt ready for action. This is USC versus Utah we’re talkin’ about! There will be a keg or two tapped and there will be trash talk!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.
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