Battle For Los Angeles: An Open Letter To UCLA And USC
By Joe Jenkins
Dear Jim Mora Jr. and Steve Sarkisian:
I’m looking out the window of my home office right now and find myself staring at waist-high snow banks. I haven’t set foot outside yet today, but there’s a stillness out there that screams, “Maybe you should just stay inside for a while.”
It’s been like this for a while now: Cold. Dreary. The populace largely miserable.
We’re hunkered down deep in the valley of the “Polar Vortex” here in the Northeast and the only thing that keeps the water level high enough for our hope to stay afloat is the idea that there are warmer places, happier faces, and from a completely selfish standpoint, the prospect of a college football renaissance in a place where salting the roads is a foreign concept.
Yes, gentlemen, I’m California dreaming. It’s all I’ve got.
It started in January when both teams finished the season ranked in the Top 25. Before you write this off as a minor accomplishment, take note that this hadn’t happened since 1993. (It also happened in 2005, but that year was later erased for USC).
On National Signing Day this year, your efforts managed to put something of a twinkle in my eye. By nearly every measure, both of you brought in strong recruiting classes that that should only make both teams better.
More importantly, both of your recruiting hauls took advantage of the deep talent pool you’re located in. According to 247sports.com, 10 out of the 18 signees from UCLA’s recruiting class are from California. USC sports 15 signees from the Golden State out of its total of 19.
I’m convinced now more than ever that the battle for Los Angeles is upon us.
Now, I know what you’re going to say.
“These two teams have been playing since 1929, Joe. The battle for Los Angeles has been being waged for nearly a century.”
That may be the case, but neither of you have been relevant on my side of the Continental Divide since the turn of the century. Not since the Trojans had to vacate all of those games between 2004 and 2005, anyway.
You locked up a couple of Rose Bowl wins? Good for you. A lot of programs beat up on Big Ten teams these days. Northern Illinois beat two of them this year alone and they’re from the MAC.
My point is your rivalry has fallen back to become something of a regional delicacy. Like the quirky local weatherman, it’s charming and endearing to the locals, but the hype never stretches outside of town.
If you need further proof, please remember that the most memorable moment from 2013 was when Pat Haden told Lane Kiffin he wasn’t allowed back on the bus.
But a rebirth is coming, isn’t it?
I feel like two smart guys like you know it as much as I do.
You two have to have noticed the potential here. For the first time in decades, both teams are trending upward.
No longer are you two ships passing in the night with one team on the way up while the other spirals down; you’re two freight trains on a collision course.
There’s a fantastic opportunity to develop a rivalry for the ages here, gentlemen. Don’t be afraid to show a little gamesmanship. Waggle your fists at each other. Put a bar of soap in the other guy’s coffee like Farva from “Super Troopers.”
Your town is starved for a winner.
If you don’t see this opportunity, you can bet St. Louis Rams owner Sam Kroenke does. He just bought 60 acres of prime real estate right in your back yard. My guess is he wants somebody to build a stadium there — and not for the L.A. Galaxy.
So for God’s sake, don’t screw this up. (I’m looking at you Sarkisian. Your program doesn’t exactly have a history of being squeaky clean.) Don’t get caught buying players. Make sure they at least try to take all of their own tests. Stay on the college football radar together for more than a few years.
Wage the battle for Los Angeles in a way so I’ll actually hear about it in New York.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to digging my car out of the snow.
But I’ll be dreaming of California and the Battle for Los Angeles the whole time.
With Frost-bitten Regards,