"The monopoly is over."
What started out as an advertising scheme by the UCLA marketing department at the outset of the Rick Neuheisel reign has turned out to be the slogan from hell for those who follow Bruins football.
With a 1-12 record against their cardinal and gold crosstown rivals over the last 13 years, those "gutsy little Bruins" have spent the last dozen-plus years proving that this certainly isn't so.
Culminated by USC's 50-0 shellacking of UCLA last year, the Trojans' domination in this series has rendered that misguided phrase as nothing more than a source of derision for those who follow the men of Troy and, at the same time, a constant embarrassment for those who root for their powder blue and gold team.
As UCLA breaks in another new coach, the notion that USC is in its collective head once again takes center stage via an innocuous event being reported by ESPN.
According to the network's SportsCenter and its ESPNLA.com website, a billboard near UCLA that was part of a promotion featuring Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley has been mysteriously "blacked out" with no one taking responsibility for the deed.
Which, of course, means that the motivation for the billboard's removal can only be a result of nefarious forces connected with UCLA's program right?
Perhaps...or perhaps not.
But does it even matter?
Regardless of where the authorization to remove Barkley's likeness originated, doesn't it say the same thing about those who are either part of or follow the Bruins?
That this monopoly is anything but over?
To be fair, if the shoe was on the other foot and a heaven-gazing Bruin—such as....um...help me here...never mind—was planted firmly in USC's backyard, the Trojan faithful would take umbrage, too.
Of course, to reach the level of outrage that motivated the billboard's removal, USC would have to have that abysmal record against its rivals that UCLA is shackled with.
And that isn't happening anytime soon.
So instead, we are left with a struggling program, desperately attempting to become relevant again, worrying about a billboard.
And looking oh so petty while doing it.
UCLA, for its part, denies involvement in the removal.
According to ESPN's Pedro Moura: "UCLA spokesperson Nick Ammazzalorso told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Peter Yoon via text message that the school had no involvement, either, though UCLA fans had complained about the billboard on Internet message boards."
Of course they complained. Can you blame them?
Having USC's golden boy hovering over their part of town is a constant reminder of their team's futility on the gridiron.
Speaking of futility, removing the billboard is ultimately an abject lesson in that fruitless pursuit.
Because regardless of how or why it was removed, the only thing that is coming from its removal is a reminder of just how mediocre UCLA has become in college football.
And how dominant the Trojans remain in Los Angeles.
In fact, at the end of the day, it turns out the only entity that enjoys a greater monopoly than USC has over UCLA is named Parker Brothers.
And it doesn't play college football.
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