A Longhorn Starts to Love USC
By Mike Moore
April 13, 2012
I have four University of Texas ball caps hanging on a hat rack in my room. From left to right, they go from clean to worn to dirty to downright disgusting, like something of a timeline for how long I have owned each one and how much of my life, both work and play, each hat has lived with me. This would be wholly unremarkable if I was a UT alum, but I never took a single class at Texas. Instead, I matriculated at the University of Southern California. And those two schools REALLY don’t like each other.
While it may seem strange that such a rabid Longhorn fan (clarification: I am not a fan of cattle with rabies) would even consider attending USC, there were enough reasons that it made sense to do so. I was already living in LA at the time I applied, and for the program I wanted to study, USC is far and away a superior school. But I knew that if I did get in, I would hold true to my Longhorn fanhood and not be corrupted by shouts of “Fight On!” Admittedly, I took it probably further than it should have gone.
I wrote my entrance essay, in response to the prompt, “Describe your most emotional moment,” about the pure joy and elation I felt when Vince Young ran in the winning touchdown at the 2006 Rose Bowl to beat USC. At a 4th of July barbeque I hosted before senior year, I put that game on the TV for all of my Trojan friends to see as they passed through the living room (because yes, I own a copy of it). And I wore a UT hat every single day that I was at USC. Seriously: every single day.
You could say I was an asshole about the whole thing, being a member of a community but constantly expressing pride in a rival group, but it really was the only way to remain true to my Texas fanhood. You can’t be a closet Longhorn at Jefferson Boulevard and Hoover Street; you have to wear burnt orange with a cocky pride and a permanent smirk that tells people you know exactly what you’re doing. And I did know. I was rubbing USC football’s last major failure right in everyone’s face, and I loved every single minute of it.
So you can imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, during a conversation about USC’s title chances with TS/DB writers John Scott and Matt, I found myself secretly excited about Trojan football.
I have not uttered this sentence to any of my Longhorn friends, and only to one of my Trojan friends. Hell, it took me a week to admit it to myself. Sure enough, though, come September, I may very well find myself for the first time cheering for Matt Barkley instead of drunkenly lobbing “pretty boy” insults at the television.
This is all to say that fanhood (or “fandom” if you want to sound like a jackass) is not something that we can control. Of course you may occasionally choose to ride the annual bandwagon team (see: 75% of the Clippers’ fanbase, myself included), but for that real and true fan spirit, the team picks you. Usually, regional pride or family ties are to thank (or blame—looking at you, Cleveland), neither of which most of us have any control over. But isn’t that the point of being a fan? It’s something you do in spite of yourself because you just don’t have a choice.
Fanhood, really, is just not logical. Knowing that in all likelihood, your team will win a championship maybe once every fifteen years, if they catch good draft picks or recruits and have a superior coach and staff, simply makes no sense. A highball figure of a seven-percent success rate would depress stock brokers and heart surgeons, but we still paint our faces, pour paychecks into branded merchandise, and surrender our emotions to the outcome of sporting competitions. Given that proposition, who would ever choose to be a sports fan at all?
Trust me: I don’t want to be a Trojan fan—it goes against everything I’ve been thinking, feeling, and saying since Carson Palmer left for the NFL. But sure as shit, I have those little internal tinges now that respond to talk about USC, the same that I have when people talk about Texas.
You know exactly what I mean. The slight smile when your team is boasted about. The quickened heart rate and instant urge to defend your team when someone starts speaking “untruths” about them, however true they may be. And that sense of connection you get when you see another person wearing your team’s colors across the restaurant or passing you on the street. When I moved to LA, I said “Hook Em” to every Longhorn hat (and Aggie hat, because I’m a dick) I saw. Now that I live in the Bruin territory of LA, I may very well throw up the “Fight On” sign the next time I see cardinal and gold.
Now, if I saw two people walking toward me at the same time, one with a Longhorns hat and one with a Trojan hat, I’d throw up the “Hook Em” without a second thought. When the two teams play in 2017 and 2018, there is no question that my seat will be in the Texas section. But when they’re not facing each other? Let’s just call it a dual citizenship, I will be pledging allegiance to both.
Of course it is easy to dismiss this whole article as a charade. It’s very convenient that I’m writing this immediately after USC’s bowl ban expired, and the Trojans are many analysts’ preseason-favorite to play in the National Championship. I get that, and even tried to talk myself into believing it, but it’s just not true. Let me reiterate: I DON’T WANT THIS. Maybe it’s the diploma on my wall, maybe it’s great memories and experiences that USC afforded me, maybe it’s the [CENSORED] thousand dollars of debt I accumulated to graduate. Whatever it is, it won. And now I’m a Longhorn, and a Trojan.