Friday, November 30, 2007

Sports: USC vs. UCLA, the day before game day

Last year, I was there.

I had a 3-game mini-plan. There were probably 30% USC fans in our section as many UCLA fans sold their tickets rather than go watch the Bruins lose. I almost did the same.

Plaschke in today's LAT has the where is he now story of Eric McNeal who got the interception that preserved the Bruin victory by keeping USC out of the end-zone and thus out of the National Championship game.


A week before the big game and the kitchen floor is sparkling.

"I do the mopping around here," Eric McNeal says.

A week before the big game and the bathrooms are shining.

"That's also my job," he says.

A week before the big game, and Eric McNeal is sitting at the dining-room table of the modest Carson home he shares with his parents, figuring out his work schedule.

Today, clean the house.

Tuesday through Friday, report to a nearby warehouse to drive a forklift.

"Maybe I'll add Saturday to my schedule," he says idly.


"Oh, wait," he says, smiling. "That's right."

Oh, wait. That's right.

Four words, two sentences, forever describing the author of one of the biggest moments in USC-UCLA football lore.

Only once in this rivalry's 76-game series has one man made one play to keep the other team out of the national championship game.

Only once has the winning play been made by a man who started one game in his college career.

Only once have circumstances so forgettable flared into something so memorable.

The man was McNeal. That play came last season when, with 1 minute 10 seconds remaining, the UCLA linebacker tipped and intercepted a John David Booty pass to seal a stunning 13-9 victory.
A couple of months later, he was being ignored by the NFL, Arena League, every league.

"When you didn't play that much in college, it's hard," he says.

Today, out of uniform and out of scholarship, he is working as a forklift driver to help pay tuition for his final quarter of college.

To save money, he lives in his childhood home, his game ball wrapped in a plastic bag and buried under some clutter.
Both of McNeal's parents are UCLA graduates.

He loved UCLA so much, he committed there during his junior year at Gardena Serra High.

He loved it so much, he didn't transfer when every coach who recruited him departed with Bob Toledo.

He loved it so much, even when he was forced to move from big safety to undersized linebacker, even when it became obvious that he would never start under Karl Dorrell, he refused to leave.

After not playing one down against Oklahoma two seasons ago, he wept.

Then he decided he would never say another word.

"I love the school and I wasn't going to do anything to hurt it," McNeal says. "I was going to keep my mouth shut and stick it out."

Even that didn't work. By the time he took the field for the final home game of his career against USC last fall, he was playing only in passing situations.

"You tell children to work hard and things will turn out all right . . . well, that's not always the case," says his mother.

And then, this being the USC-UCLA game, they did.

"He never complained, he never asked for more time," says linebackers coach Chuck Bullough. "Then he finally had his moment."
Go Bruins!


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sports: UCLA vs. USC in two days

The game is at USC's home field and I'll not be trying to fetch the tickets.

The listed price at Stubhub ranges from $109 to $1200.

No one expected UCLA to win last year and last year's team was healthy!

This years team has been a MASH unit.

The latest news is that Olson who came in for the 2nd half of last weeks game has had knee trouble again. As such Cowan who has had knee trouble and is recovering from a collapsed lung has been taking the bulk of the snaps at practice. Rassan who started last weeks game but was pulled after going 0-7 passing with 1 int is the backup.

The LAT is running daily articles about the past rivalry games. Saw this one today.


The year was 1992 and the Bruins had run through pretty much all of their quarterbacks, losing Wayne Cook, Rob Walker and Ryan Fien to injury. They were down to a fourth-string senior.

"He wasn't even on the team the previous year," Dellins said. "Coach [Terry] Donahue let him walk on."

Barnes responded with a magical night against the Trojans, throwing for 385 yards and three touchdowns. When 15th-ranked USC failed on a two-point conversion with less than a minute remaining, UCLA had a 38-37 upset victory.

Dellins loved that a no-name could, in the course of a few hours, become a star. He also liked the way Barnes responded afterward. The quarterback, known to live in a realm of his own, did not consider his Cinderella performance a big deal.

Interviewed on television after the game, he was asked what might have happened if USC had taken the lead on that conversion.

"Well," he responded plainly, "we'd have gone down the field and scored again."


On the current UCLA team, the 4th string QB would be McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The walk-on QB played in the dismal loss to Notre Dame after Olson got hurt. The Fighting Irish decided to stack the line to stop the running game and blitz like crazy. The result, the shell-shocked Bethel-Thompson got sacked 4 times and threw 4 interceptions.

Can history repeat itself with a surprise victory on the arm of a 4th string QB?

Go Bruins!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sports: BCS forecasts

Hey, that is the fun part about being a blogger! I can use this platform to express my opinion and you can take it for every cent you are paying for it!

My biases: am a UCLA alum so am a fan of the Pac10. Alas, this year, it doesn't look like the Pac10 is going to get 2 teams into the BCS. Just don't see ASU getting in.

USC (pac10) - As a UCLA fan, I would love it if UCLA could knock USC out of the Rose Bowl game but I'd guess USC will be favored by 21 in the annual cross-town game next week. Of course, last year the Bruins weren't expected to win and they knocked USC out of the BCS championship game!
Hawaii (at large, wac) - A huge if is whether the Rainbow Warriors can beat the Washington Huskies. If they do, the Rose Bowl selection committee will see $$$ signs as the Hawaii fans will happily get on a plane to California to root for the Warriors. If Hawaii stumbles, my guess is that the Rose Bowlers will nab Missouri pitting USC's defense against the Tiger's spread offense.

Oklahoma (big12) - Can the Sooners beat the Tigers twice? I think so!
Boston College (at large, ACC) - no way the Fiesta sets up Oklahoma versus Mizzou, round III.

LSU (sec) - Nice little home game for them!
Mizzou (at large, Big12) - The Sugar organizers are rooting for Hawaii so the Rose Bowl takes them to set up this game. If Hawaii stumbles, the Sugar will call up Illinois.

Va Tech (acc) - They should beat BC!
Georgia (at large, SEC) - Right next door, no brainer!

BCS Championship:
Ohio State (big10) - Because everyone else around them gets beat, they slip back into the BCS championship game! Hugh Hewitt would love the wisdom of this forcast! 8-)
West Virginia (big east) - The Big East champs are in. Nobody below them in the BCS can jump over them. Of course, watch them lose to Pittsburgh! Hah!

You heard it here first!!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Life: Introducing Lillian


You have seen this before, but now that we have reached the next step in the adoption process, I thought it would be OK to post our announcement on Two Tin Cans.

We are thrilled to announce that we have been matched with a little girl in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, China. She was given the name Chang Wei He, and when we adopt her she will be known as Lillian Weihe Bruffett (we'll call her Lily).

We like the story behind the name Weihe. "Wei" means "mighty" -- an aspirational name for a small girl (she likely was born prematurely); the name symbolizes the hope of her caregivers at the Changzhou City Children's Welfare Institute that she would grow stronger. "He" is a common name for girls and means "lotus" -- a water lily.

She is nearly 2 (her birthday is November 18). The letter we received from her caregivers in China concluded with this, and we couldn't agree more: "She is as good as pie."

We just found out this week that we may be allowed to travel as early as mid-December, or possibly as late as late January. We will be in China for approximately two weeks -- possibly over Christmas.

I have created a blog for our trip; we hope to be able to post often while we are overseas so that family and friends can share the experience with us.

We are excited and bursting with anticipation.

Take care!