Apodaca: A Bruins fan in Newport is something of a Trojan horse

We've been lying low at my house, nursing our bitterness, and indulging in theatrical self-torment as we try to assuage our battered egos.

We are UCLA fans.

It's not easy being one these days, not since last weekend's shellacking of the Bruin football squad by that other college team from Los Angeles. It doesn't help that the enemy is everywhere in Newport Beach.

Sometimes I wonder if the city is actually just an extension of the USC campus. Do residents get a break on their taxes when they fly those annoying flags?

I don't even particularly like football. I have a totally mom-type reaction to seeing all those strapping young men brutalize each other. I'd like to scold them for playing so rough and warn them to tone it down before someone really gets hurt.

Of course, someone always gets hurt, and then I spend the rest of the game worrying about the kid who was carried off the field.

At the time of this writing, I don't yet know whether UCLA will pull off a highly unlikely upset of Oregon at Friday's Pac-12 championship game.

But such a miraculous outcome wouldn't be enough to save Coach Rick Neuheisel, who was fired after the USC drubbing. Even a spot in the Rose Bowl would only go part of the way toward redeeming the Bruins' lackluster season.

Neither would it stifle the smirks of Trojans, who know they would have played for the championship if they hadn't been deemed ineligible because of NCAA rules violations (i.e., cheating).

I realize I risk my credentials as a real fan here, but unlike others who have castigated Neuheisel, I feel genuine sympathy for the guy. He always seemed so sincere and enthusiastic, and he's also a very snappy dresser, which counts for a lot in my book.

I also agonize for the UCLA quarterback, what's-his-name, who appears to be the kind of polite, earnest young man that any mother would be proud of, but whose talent dims next to the megawatt star power of USC's Matt Barkley, a Newport native who is now considered to be a contender for the Heisman Trophy.

But whether I appreciate or even understand football — what's a pistol offense again? — isn't the point when school pride is at stake.

I am a Bruin through and through; blue and gold courses through my veins. My three older siblings all graduated from UCLA. I met my husband there. Now my older son attends UCLA, and my younger son, still in high school, has been brainwashed since birth.

I still go to many games and do the eight-clap because I remain devoted to my alma mater, even when it hurts. And right now, it hurts a lot.

Sadly, last weekend's miserable 50-0 blanking wasn't even UCLA's worst defeat in the history of the annual matchups with the dreaded Trojans; it was the third worst. In the past 13 contests, UCLA has won once.

We console ourselves with all kinds of bromides to cover our mortification, and we take comfort in knowing that UCLA is far superior in every other conceivable way. Not bragging here, just stating the facts: UCLA still holds the record for the most NCAA championships.

Bruins are smarter, hipper and infinitely more humble. We had John Wooden. End of story.

The Trojans, among other failings, are terrible at history. How else to explain their choice of a mascot based on one of the all-time biggest losers, the denizens of a city-state who were overrun by Sparta because they were dumb enough to fall for the old wooden horse routine?

Now let me assure my Trojan friends — amazingly, I have many — that I love you dearly on an individual, I-forgive-you-for-what-you-are-and-where-you-come-from level. I can rise above the pettiness and name-calling and one-upping to admit that some of you are actually decent people.

But in the aggregate, say in a crowded football stadium, I see an Evil Empire, the University of Spoiled Children with its over-the-top fundraising machine and unapologetic arrogance.

"Oh yeah, we're terrible. We like to flaunt it," admitted Gil Lukosky, owner of Nikki's Flags in Newport Beach.

As you might guess, Lukosky, a USC alumnus, is responsible for many of those aforementioned Trojan flags that hang all over town. They're his most popular item, and they outsell UCLA flags by a 10-1 margin.

Lukosky also sells the now-ubiquitous "House Divided" flags, but even those don't always keep the peace. Spouses have been known to argue about which school name to put on the upper portion of the divide; sometimes they resort to buying two flags with the names flip-flopped.

The rivalry is clearly good for Lukosky's business, but right now all those flags seem to be mocking my pain.

So how can we recover from another humiliating loss at the hands of the Trojans?

I suggest we Bruins walk tall, hold our heads high, and remember that UCLA offers the finest education our dwindling public funding can buy. We must take heart in the knowledge that there's a very good reason the Westwood campus receives more applications, year after year, than any other university. We are proud, we are mighty, we are Bruins.

And if that doesn't help, well, there's always next year.

PATRICE APODACA is a Newport-Mesa public school parent and former Los Angeles Times staff writer. She is also a regular contributor to Orange Coast magazine. She lives in Newport Beach.

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