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...Absurdly Premature Assessment of Jonathan Tu's Absurdly Premature Assessment of SMQ's Absurdly Premature Assessment of UCLA.
Welcome to the wormhole.

Privately, Jonathan Tu will quickly admit his Onion ambitions, but in fact 82 Sluggo Win is usually better than the vanguard of fake news, which delivers little these days beyond its headlines and comes up especially short in its hipster-tinted ventures into sports. Tu, though, until his site follows its ostensible progenitor from the inevitable shark (or he, like, graduates to an actual job), remains the Our Dumb Century of Pac Ten football satire. He's cornered the market, then beaten and sodomized it. And frankly, the market seems to enjoy it.

Quickly, an aside: last week, SMQ opened up his first offseason assessment, of Tulane, by comparing the Green Wave to an utterly ignorable vision of the imagination until the moment the imagination - in this case, defeat to Tulane - threatens, however illogically, to become a reality. Certain Tulane fans got it, but others were not very happy with this opinion, and attributed it not to an attempt at truth-telling, but to the very personal, even jealous ax SMQ must be attempting to grind against the Green Wave.

Maybe it's to be expected, but in his absurdly premature assessment of SMQ's Absurdly Premature Assessment of UCLA, Tu falls into a similar trap of perspective - in this case, he agrees with SMQ's predictions for the Bruins (7-6, meh) but substitutes many of his own biases as catalysts for this conclusion.

First, Tu's assessment forgets the essential rule of fandom: losing is your team's fault. Its fate is entirely in its own hands at all times. From a Southern Miss perspective, Tulane is not capable of defeating USM; the Eagles must actively lose to Tulane. If USM plays competently, to its potential, it will not lose. It cannot lose. Defeat is always on its own shoulders (and occasionally the refs'). Similarly, from the very privileged (and probably bandwagon, too, though we will not pursue this assumption) point of view of a Southern Cal fan, UCLA did not beat USC, and in fact could not beat USC. The Trojans could only lose to UCLA by their own unfathomable shortcomings on that particular afternoon. When things go wrong in football, as in much of life, remember that other people are not performing well, but rather you are performing poorly.

Per that rule, Tu's premature assessment of SMQ's premature assessment makes two fundamental flaws of allegorical appropriation: it paradoxically refers to UCLA as "a friend" of USC (to be beaten to death, a fate he bizarrely deems appropriate only at the hands of a friend) and, second, equates USC with the popular character Rocky, the "anthropomorphic embodiment of all that is good in America," where UCLA is his indefatigable nemesis, Ivan Drago, "a force to be reckoned with." In fact, those roles could not be more mismatched: it is USC, not UCLA, which is often considered "unbeatable," like the film's Drago, "the Soviet-bloc produced superman whose punching power, Achilles physique, psychotic single-mindedness...[and] vaguely steppes-ish Valkyrie bride" render him seemingly invincible. When USC crushed UCLA for more than 650 yards and 66 points in 2005, it effectively scowled of the Bruin defense, "If it dies, it dies," a performance so thorough in its unrelenting cruelty, so reeking of hubris, that UCLA's stunning revenge last December stands as perhaps the preeminent "Rocky" moment of the decade. Outside of USC, it was the Trojans who "killed" UCLA, in the most literal fashion provided within the limits of football, and only a USC partisan could see the analogy otherwise. Or mix up the entire analogy by inserting elements of Ghostbusters.

Moreover, UCLA is, to quote Tu, "meh." Its status is more akin to Don Flamenco, the well-tanned, good-but-not-great champion of Spain in "Mike Tyson's Punchout!!" who is usually ripe for defeat, but occasionally knocks your championship-bound Little Mac/USC out in weaker (or drunker) moments. Still, you will always have another chance for retribution following a shocking loss. Flamenco, like UCLA, is also much tougher when you have to beat him later on to reach the peak, the World Circuit championship, where his defense is much improved. But LA is by no means the killer Drago.

More disturbing is Tu's treatment of the character Apollo Creed, who in this equation is reduced from an actual dramatic personage - a champion, at that - to a mere representation of the ambition of his "friend," in this case, the "BCS title hopes" of the nominal protagonist, USC/Rocky, which have been subsequently "killed" by the rival, Drago/UCLA. This, from Tu, especially in light of recent controversy surrounding the racial environment of USC football, is a rather shocking minimization of the African-American role model from equal to accomplice in the eventual success of the white hero. Creed's actuality is reduced to a form of deus ex machina in order to facilitate the contrived dramatic triumph of "the underdog," which, as demonstrated above, is already a fundamental partisan misappropriation.

Notice most of all the inherent fatalism in Tu's assessment of SMQ's assessment:

SMQ on UCLA: 7-6, overall meh-ness.

82 Sluggo Win on UCLA: defeat at the hands of anthropomorphic embodiment of all that is good in America, followed by utter ruination via crossed proton pack streams, or, as Vinz Clortho would've put it...

Traveler - he will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldronaii, Traveler came as a large and moving Torb! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex supplicants, they chose a new form for him - that of a giant Sloar! Many Shubs and Zuuls and Bruins knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Sloar that day, I can tell you!

Beating UCLA becomes not only a means to an end - securing a Pac Ten or mythical championship - or even a heated but ultimately good-natured competition among geographic rivals, but a moral imperative to set right specific injustices of the universe. In his mind, a world where such a result is possible is evidence of "mass hysteria," and UCLA must not only be defeated, but actually destroyed for its perceived insubordination of the natural order, cast into "utter ruination." The rhetoric becomes nearly religious in tone.

SMQ respects Tu's fervor, but must resent the implication that his assessment must be somehow complicit with these beliefs. SMQ would like to believe his is a world where USC and UCLA may coexist in the same stratosphere of gridiron success, where the Bruins may occasionally defeat the Trojans and vice versa. It is the Jonathan Tus who wish to destroy this vision by perpetuating the notion of

USC football dominating everything in its path, cruelly crushing the life from all those who would recruit from the Golden State, acknowledging few, yielding to none, laughing the way any good villain ought to laugh, deep and assured and terrifying and impossible not to admire, and definitely not like the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's really hoping makes it happen. I want USC to be like the guy in the rated R movie. You know, the guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where he's coming from.

Which of those "guys" is Rocky, and which is Ivan Drago? Which is the "anthropomorphic embodiment of all that is good in America"? SMQ may be relatively "bearish" on UCLA's chanches of competing for the Pac Ten championship in 2007, but the reasons have nothing to do with "Rocky."