It's the Little Victories in Life That Count

It was a big day for local football. The USC Trojans swamped Arizona 31-10, Washington State humbled the UCLA Bruins 24-15, and Brentwood School defeated Pasadena Poly 32-20.

That last game two weeks ago was played on Brentwood Field in Brentwood. The field is a green oval with a fringe of eucalyptus trees along one edge and academic buildings rising behind it.

It was homecoming day so the bleachers were full and there was much activity around the field. Hot dogs and soft drinks were for sale. Cheerleaders for both schools were busy. Across the field from the bleachers a Brentwood chorus in white sang the school's alma mater and the "Star-Spangled Banner."

The Brentwood Eagles worked out at one end of the field in navy blue jerseys while the Poly Panthers, in white and orange, worked out at the other.

The field seemed oddly small. I realized it was divided by a 40-yard line, not a 50, so it was only 80 yards long, not 100. Also, when the game started it became evident that there were only eight players on each team, instead of 11.

This scaling down did not seem to affect the players or the crowd. Even before the game started, the two schools' cheerleading squads were working the sidelines. In front of us were the Brentwood girls--a dozen of them--graceful, athletic and noisy.

They kicked and sang and yelled throughout the game, seemingly having a different yell for every situation. When Poly had the ball the Brentwood cheerleaders yelled, "Defense! Defense!"

We naturally focused on Brentwood's No. 23, our grandson Casey. He played linebacker on defense and running back on offense, which kept him pretty busy. He had a good game, helping in several tackles and intercepting a pass with a run that led to a touchdown.

The Brentwood passing game was working pretty well. Zach Emery, the quarterback, seemed to have a good arm and a cool, unhurried motion. I noticed that the gray-haired woman sitting next to me seemed excited whenever he completed a pass, though she did not yell or otherwise demonstrate. Turned out she was his grandmother. How many times at a football game do you get to sit next to the quarterback's grandmother?

Probably the star of the Brentwood Eagles is a running back named Scott Fagan. Scott is an excellent breakaway runner, and accounted for many of Brentwood's critical gains.

Besides yelling, "Defense!" whenever Poly had the ball, the Brentwood cheerleaders would yell, "Take that ball away! Take, take that ball away!" Whether this yell had any effect on the team I was unable to calculate.

When the Eagles scored a touchdown to take the lead, the girls would chant "Oh, yes, we are . . . superior by far !"

Meanwhile, my son Curt brought me a hot dog, smothered with relish and mustard, the way I like it, and a Coke. The only thing different from a game in the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl was that there was no beer. Oh, well, probably a good thing.

At halftime a girl dressed in a hideous eagle costume with feathers and a ghastly beaked head danced and cavorted in front of the grandstand. Later I saw this girl out of uniform; I thought it was a shame to make her the eagle.

As the game neared its final whistle and the Eagles were safely ahead, I began to believe that indeed the Eagles were superior by far. But I would not recommend that the girls chant those lines early in any game. They could backfire.

At the moment, though, the Eagles are 3 and 0, which is more than I can say for the Bruins. When the Bruins are having such a poor season, it is comforting to know that I can still root for the Eagles, because they are superior by far. So far.

After the game we piled into our daughter-in-law Gail's Toyota van and drove to her house for a barbecued steak victory dinner. Casey came by just long enough to shower. He was going to Brentwood's homecoming dance. Ah, youth!

Ah, victory!

We began an e-mail correspondence with our granddaughter Alison, Trevor and Casey's sister, who is a freshman at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. She is delighted with her new friends and her surroundings, though she thinks the weather is too cold. Wait until January.

The Los Angeles Times doesn't keep us informed about the Cornell football team, but I gather that it isn't anything to write home about.

In keeping with the celebratory mood, I had two vodka tonics, instead of one. I was also buoyed up by the news that the Dodgers had defeated the Padres and were still only half a game behind the Colorado Rockies in the National League West. Ah, youth! Ah, victory! That, of course, was more than a week ago.

The Dodgers now are in.

* Jack Smith's column is published Mondays.

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