This blog is for the Trojan Family. The Trojan faithful. The Trojans who have been there through thick and thin. The rest of you can leave now. Go read some other blog. Go join some other bandwagon. You won’t understand. You won’t get it. And to be honest, you won’t care about anything I have to say. UCLA is ranked, undefeated, feeling pretty good about themselves and in desperate need of fans, maybe you should turn your attention there. Plenty of room on that bandwagon.
This loss hurts. But it hurts in a different way, at least for me.
In terms of most heart breaking “football” losses this hardly registers. This loss was tough to swallow but it was hardly devastating compared to other losses that had so much more riding on them. And we are going to recover from this loss faster than you and everyone else realizes. Yes, I mean this year. I mean today — the very second our boys hit the practice field.
This loss was heart breaking because someone we love, someone who made a sacrifice we will never begin to understand, had his dreams torn apart before our eyes. Matt Barkley is one of the finest, most decent, most selfless people to wear the cardinal & gold. Matt passed up the opportunity to play in the NFL and millions of dollars to make his dream come true. A dream that pays nothing and risks much. A dream to make good on a promise he made to Pete Carroll five years ago. A dream to give every USC fan — bandwagonner or not — what they crave. A dream to go undefeated. A dream to be Pac-12 champion. A dream to be National Champion. A dream to be a Heisman winner. A dream to raise USC up to the pinnacle of college football from the ashes Paul Dee left us in.
I know other guys have passed up the NFL to come back to USC and I don’t want to take anything away from them but none of them were starting quarterbacks who willingly subjected themselves to some of the toughest sanctions ever doled out by the NCAA. Matt stuck with USC when he had the chance to take his talents elsewhere. And he stuck with USC again when he had the chance to become a millionaire NFL superstar.
Nobody could have faulted Matt for seeking greener pastures in the NFL. He certainly earned that right and would always be regarded as a USC hero, bringing us back from the brink of despair and riding off into the sunset after whipping UCLA 50-0. Matt’s loyalty to USC has never wavered.
Logic dictated that Matt should go to the NFL. But as anyone who has been in love will tell you, logic is no match for passion. Matt’s heart wouldn’t let him leave. There were unfilled dreams to make true. There were doubters to prove wrong. There was too much business left to finish.
So as I stood there on Saturday (never ever sit during a USC football game) watching USC struggle to keep pace with Stanford, watching the seconds tick off the clock in the fourth quarter, all I could think about was Matt and what was slipping through his fingers. All those dreams were fading away and he was essentially powerless to stop it.
I can’t imagine the anguish and desperation Matt was feeling on that last drive. I wanted this to be the storybook season for Matt who gave us so much. Who gave up so much. Who did everything right. We’ve had other Heisman winners and we’ve won other championships. And of course we will have them again but this was Matt’s one shot. He won’t get a second chance. And the thing is, Matt deserves it more than anyone I can think of.
So yeah, this loss was as heartbreaking as they come but not because we lost a football game. It’s because our hearts hurt for our brother.
Now for some good news. All hope is not lost. The undefeated season is gone but everything else Matt came back for can still happen. The road isn’t as smooth and we’ll need some help but here’s what we need to happen in order of importance:
- USC goes undefeated the rest of the season.
- Stanford goes undefeated the rest of the season.
- Oregon wins all games except against USC & Stanford.
- UCLA wins all games except against USC & Stanford.
- USC beats Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
- No more than one (preferably none) team from a BCS conference finishes undefeated.
- Icing on the cake is for ND to have only one loss to Stanford before losing to USC.
That’s the road to a National Championship. The road to a Pac-12 championship and Rose Bowl berth is much easier.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It is OK to root for UCLA if it helps USC. Besides, it will be so sweet to dash their hopes in November if they’re still riding high. So as hard as it is you have to become the biggest Oregon/Stanford/UCLA closet fan you can be.
And here’s the most important thing. Do not get down on this team. We owe it to Matt and to the entire team to show up at every game. To be louder than ever. To keep it positive. To support our men no matter what happens the rest of this season because the only guarantee is that they are going to show up no matter what.
Return the favor.