By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 23, 2016
Every sports league that’s attracted a passionate fan base and that’s had a stable set of teams for more than a few seasons has That Team.
That Team is the team that everybody either loves or hates. That Team is the team that’s been the most successful, and its fans remind you of that success every chance they get. When That Team’s having a good season, its fans take the wins for granted; when That Team’s hit a bit of a lull — don’t worry, it’s just a temporary one! — its fans complain as if every loss is a personal affront deliberately afflicted upon them by an incompetent player and/or coach and/or front office and/or owner. That Team’s players rarely give the other team any credit; when they do, their praise is patently insincere.
In the National Basketball Association, That Team is the Los Angeles Lakers. In the National Football League, That Team is the Dallas Cowboys. In men’s college basketball, That Team is Duke — although it used to be UCLA, and a lot of people, especially fans of fellow ACC teams, also consider Duke’s neighbor, the University of North Carolina, to be That Team.
And in college football, especially in the Pac-12 — formerly the Pac-10, formerly the Pac-8, formerly the Athletic Association of Western Universities, né the Pacific Coast Conference — the University of Southern California is That Team. The Trojans have won 10 national championships in the sport; that tally doesn’t count their 2004 championship, which was revoked post hoc due to NCAA rules violations. In the 100-year history of the conference, the Trojans own an astounding 37 football titles. The school’s 24-8 record in the Rose Bowl, the granddaddy of bowl games, is the high-water mark for wins by a single school in one bowl.
In short, everyone in the Pac-12 wants to beat the Trojans. And when they do, they find that the sensation is addictive. One win isn’t enough — you always want more.
Speaking of which more, I’ll have more on one team’s quest to turn the tables on the Trojans in a forthcoming post.