I grew up in a house divided. My mom and I went/go to Stanford, my father and older brother to USC. That family dynamic, along with my upbringing in Newport Beach, California (where at least a third of the baby-boom generation of USC alums decided to settle down and raise families) left me a rare outsider on the inside of the infamous, very tight-knit Trojan family. And, up until very recently, that family drove me crazy.
The Fight Song on repeat. The peace-sign/victory wave. The ocean of red and yellow (ahem… “Cardinal and Gold” as my father would chastise me through childhood). The football obsession. The Tommy Trojan references. The endless parade of license plates, stickers, and flags adorning the cars in my hometown. The ridiculously perky “Fight On” attitude. For the longest time, I found the culture so nauseating that the only way I could take refuge from their inexhaustible pride was to adopt the outsider attitude and disregard all of it. I would make jabs about whether being platinum blonde was still a requirement for admission. I would assume that all USC students were vapid, superificial, and unfocused on anything but getting wasted. I made the U$C jokes and took pleasure in the puns: “You can’t spell ‘suck’ without USC”, and the classic “University of Spoiled Children”. With a school like Stanford in my sights, I wanted to make it clear how much above their shallow antics I was. I wanted my attitude to demonstrate how much better Stanford was than USC: how much smarter, less conservative, more diverse, and more successful we are.
"Because Stanford doesn't like me"
But one weekend changed my perspective. With little to do and an itching for a bit of fun, I swallowed my pride, dropped my preconceived notions, and asked my brother if I could tag along for a couple days and get an insider peek at his life as a Trojan. The experience that followed was anything other than what I might have expected. The classes were incredibly engaging and dynamic; the campus was extremely welcoming and filled to the brim with excited students advertising their interests in every culture and activity, and a night on the infamous 28th street left me wanting more.
Admittedly – any college brochure will give you that. But what really caught me off my guard was how authentically friendly and kind everyone was. When I told people that I go to Stanford, every single person I spoke with was genuinely excited to hear about it, showered me with compliments about the Farm, offered references to friends of theirs’ who go here and rave about it, and were noticeably reverent of our fair university – usually tossing in some form of, “I applied there but didn’t get in. But I would have loved to go there”. Not one person had anything rude or snarky to say about Stanford, nor did anyone seem to be withholding any such comments.
Even this past weekend, when the university played host to what one USC student called “one of the most epic games and biggest letdowns I’ve seen in my college career” – Trojans were still surprisingly respectful of the Cardinal win. Especially under circumstances that most Trojan fans identified as “the closest thing to a bowl game we’ll come to this year” – my in-person interactions with students were generally tame. Understandably, most students were disappointed, felt they got gypped, and said they won in spirit, but I didn’t run into anyone who was out to seriously bash Stanford. The harshest comment I heard came in the form of Facebook status: “Whatever Stanford, your helmets are still ugly”.
Which begs the question – why do so many Stanford students seem to harbor such resentment – whether legitimate or in jest – toward our private Pac-12 peer? Why do we feel the need to put down USC at every possible opportunity? (more…)