Jason’s abysmal, nightmare-inducing sports weekend

Older brother for hire 

Do you ever wake up in a cold sweat shouting into the dark of your bedroom “Go for it, you coward?”

Yeah, me neither.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and knowing that my mother reads this column, I’ll try to remain thankful for what I have and refrain from profanity.

There are many things to appreciate in my life and those are not lost on me.

I have a roof over my head, a wife and dog that love me unconditionally. Plus, I’m alive, kinda. Despite all the things I do have going for me I remain a fan of two of the most star-crossed football teams this side of the Mayflower.

So, let’s talk turkey.

The column went on the road this week as a reader reached out to yours truly and asked if I’d like to attend a watch-party for the annual crosstown rivalry showdown between UCLA and USC.

Jason and his brother, Matt, just before kickoff. The last time Jason was happy this past weekend. Photo by Kristina Borjon

The Beachside Bruins are a welcoming bunch of UCLA alumni that draw fans from Long Beach, Lakewood and Seal Beach to watch the boys in powder blue and gold play their away games. I was told that Saturday’s location, the Bixby Knolls EJ Malloys was scientifically chosen: the Bruins were undefeated when the Beachside crew watched games there.

I accepted the invite and brought my brood up to the Bixby Knolls, settling in with my brother, Matt, (he roots for the other team) for what I was hoping would be a bounceback game after last week’s thrashing.

It wasn’t. Chip Kelly and Co. served up the same defense that haunted Bruin fans the first third of the season and USC’s offense cut through it like a freshly plated log of canned cranberry sauce. [Editor’s note: Mmmmm, factory-jellied fruit]

The Bruins scored first which thrust the throng of blue-clad fans inside the pub into a raucous 8-clap. U-C-L-A beat SC, please?

However, after showing life in the first quarter the team went on to allow USC’s true freshman quarterback to become the first player in series history to throw for 500 yards.

The stat is probably more an indictment on the Bruins’ defensive scheme which all year employed a cover zero mentality. Returning to this approach after a month of an improvement ended in a 52-35 defeat.

The thing about rivalry week that I’ve always loved is how it gets the two fan bases buzzing. Regardless of records, the two teams typically come to play and the buildup to the game can playfully divide a city with households displaying “House Divided” flags and vehicles dragging stuffed doll versions of the other school’s mascot.

My brother and I don’t spend nearly the amount of time that we should together, but as we’ve grown into adulthood we’ve made it a tradition to drop what we’re doing to make plans with each other to watch this game. People being united by their differences is a beautiful thing until they text you from across the pub table “There’s always next decade.”

I’m now accepting applications for a new little brother.

Why you trippin’? 

Sunday was another travel day as I took the show on the road again right into the teeth of New England Patriot fandom.

No, the Long Beach Post would not let me expense a trip to Foxborough, but it did approve a trip to Gillette Stadium west, located at my friend Bill’s house in Buena Park.

Bill’s family is from Boston. His surname is Irish and his dad sounds like he’s straight out of central casting for “Good Will Hunting.” Plenty of Mass-holes (add Massachusetts and a certain demeanor when brought together) gather in his Mancave every February because, regrettably, the Pats are in the Super Bowl every February.

The collision between America’s Team and Tom Brady’s horde of second-stringers was supposed to be a slam dunk for the Cowboys.

The Boyz were healthy while the Pats were so thin at wide receiver that there are rumors they’re entertaining re-signing Antonio Brown. Dak Prescott is young and getting better while Tom Brady is old and uncomfortably kisses his kids on the mouth. Bill Belichick is a verified cheater and Jason Garrett is… oh, lord.

Let’s try and overlook the fact that Belichick clearly revved up his weather machine to give the Pats an advantage in the form of Jumanji-esque rainstorms, the key to this game was always going come down to coaching which is why despite the rest of the cards falling in place for the Boyz I knew the river card would put the Pats over the top.

What hurt most was that river card came in the form of former UCLA Bruin Matthew Slater who blew through the Cowboys’ poorly coached special teams unit to block a punt that set up the only touchdown drive of the Pats’ 13-9 victory.

While the focus in the wake of Sunday’s game has been on an erroneous tripping penalty that negated a first down for the Cowboys late in the fourth quarter, the real face plants were self-inflicted and could very well have sealed Garrett’s fate.

Special teams gaffes that led to poor field position, throwing the ball on third and short when the highest paid running back in the league was averaging more than four yards a carry and opting to kick a field goal late in the game when a touchdown was needed, are likely to see the Cowboys with a new coach next year.

For the first time in recent memory, Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones publicly scrutinized the coaching staff creating a stir within Cowboy Nation that changes could be coming.

If the team can’t change its luck over the next five weeks, namely by cutting the mic to Garrett’s headset during pivotal late-game situations, then his sideline clapping could be facing extinction in Dallas.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.