Special to Page 2
EDITOR'S NOTE: Erica Lucero, a sophomore at Southern Cal, will provide Page 2 with periodic updates from campus this season as the Trojans attempt to win their third consecutive national championship.
If there's one lesson I've learned from writing this column, it's this: When it comes to sports, people won't hesitate to tell you exactly what they think. Sometimes they even display some insight. One student, from Illinois Central, e-mailed about USC, "I think it is pretty safe to say that they have become the Yankees of college football."
I might not want to admit it, but the guy has a point, and for more than one reason.
At the risk of being on the receiving end of a flurry of e-mails from militant Red Sox fans, I'm going on record here: The New York Yankees have the strongest baseball legacy. You might say they are the USC of their sport.
Like USC, the Yankees have a team that is loaded with talent from top to bottom. Even their bullpen is great well, Mariano Rivera anyway, and Tom Gordon has his moments. Similarly, the Trojans have so much talent they have players like LenDale White playing second string.
Also, think of the Yankees' start to their season this year, one of the worst they've ever had. But like USC, they seem to redeem themselves, and then some, late in the game. I wouldn't bet against either team winning a championship this year.
So, in the end, this is what it all comes down to: Rooting for USC is like rooting for the Yankees.
Because of their history, their payroll, and the maniacal win-or-die attitude of owner George Steinbrenner -- an attitude shared by most Yankee fans -- anything less than a World Series win is considered a huge failure. Even the pennant would be looked upon as a booby prize.
The Trojans' goal -- and the goal of their fans -- is just as lofty: an undefeated season and national championship. Even a 12-1 season and a Pac-10 crown only would be a disaster.
Most sports fans probably would say it doesn't get much better than the chance to cheer for a team that has even the possibility of reaching such heights. But really, neither team is in a great situation. When anything less than a championship equals a huge disappointment, it's pretty much a no-win situation. The best they can possibly achieve is if they do as expected.
Under those conditions, a happy ending for fans of either team is pretty hard to achieve.
The other night, I headed up the hill to a Dodgers game versus the Pirates, a well-matched pair of chronic underachievers. There is a huge population of L.A.'ers who love them regardless, though, so everyone in the stadium was quite excited when the Dodgers won that night. At Dodger Stadium, victory is never taken for granted, so fans get a huge thrill when the team wins any game, no matter how insignificant. When the Yankees win, however, no one bats an eye. It's expected.
And so it is with the Trojans.
At USC, we haven't torn down a goal post in a long while. There are no small thrills for Trojans fans or Yankee fans. It's all or nothing.