by Lorine Parks
“Welcome to our first annual USC/UCLA Spirit Week,” President Will Medina proclaimed.  We shared our Thanksgiving turkey feast with members of four other Downey service clubs: the two Kiwanis groups, who concentrate on serving youth; Soroptimist International, whose mission is helping women and girls; and the Lions, whose best known project is fighting blindness.
To unite us by re-dividing us, our guest speakers represented both UCLA’s  and USC’s  footballs teams, and the tables were decorated in anticipation of the upcoming traditional game this weekend.  Water glasses were filled with blue or scarlet napkins, five of each to each table, and the centerpiece had pompoms of gold and cardinal, and gold and hero blue.  In addition to our new paper placemats with our Rotary 4-way test, there were enough conversation pieces to keep up a lively flow of talk.
We were delighted that so many other clubs joined us, enough to fill nine tables.  Presidents from each club described their meetings, one of which alternates between lunch and dinner, to give working members a chance to come after work.  Another holds breakfasts, as early as 7:01 am.
Matt Knox (USC) and Mario Guerra (UCLA) kicked off the program with a banter of alternating school jokes, which ran into a snag when it turned out that both had adopted the same joke for their side.  Mario quickly recovered by personalizing his remarks.  “My wife Ann went to USC,’ he said, “but she married well.”
Thankfully the program was then turned over to two football personages, both 6’ 4’’ and both still in great shape.   Patrick Cowan, “The Trojan Slayer,” spoke first, after being introduced as one of a great line of stars recruited from Bellflower’s St. John Bosco.  He relived the 13-9 game of 2006, when he quarterbacked UCLA to topple #2 USC in a huge upset.
But emphasizing the day’s theme, “Winning that game wasn’t the greatest thing,” he said.  “It was the entire experience of college football.”  Rivalries bring everyone together in the end.
Picking up this thread was Lawrence Jackson, defensive end for USC and later, player for the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions.  He expressed the feeling of sportsmanship in reliving the great games, and said he was looking forward to this weekend’s match up which will decide the title for the Southern Pacc-12 .  Despite his bipartisanship, Jackson was heard to end his talk with the SC chant, “Fight on.”
In answer to questions from the audience, Jackson said that on Saturday he expects that USC will be concentrating on the playmakers, the special teams, and the running game.  Cowen speaking about UCLA said they will be looking to disrupt SC’s strategies and turn the ball over.  Jackson predicted a USC win with score of 25-24.   Cowen saw it more as a 24-32, favoring the Bruins.
Asked about the growing concern about the danger from concussions,   UCLA’s former quarterback Cowan said, “I would not let my son play football.”  It is important to remember that Cowen was the victim of a violent  sideline collision-tackle in the 2nd Quarter of the 2007 UCLA-USC game, which  was televised to a national audience.   Legendary college football coach Lou Holtz observed that USC’s Ray Maualuga’s tackle of Cowan was "the most violent tackle I have ever seen on a college football field."
SC’s Jackson saw football as teaching discipline, and compared sports to the military. “The consequences are severe.”  “But,” he added, “sports are a great opportunity to grow as a man.”
To this reporter, listening to comments as the audience filed out to the parking lot, the joint service club luncheon, with the local college rivalry as a theme, was a great success.  Nothing brings people together better than laughter, and a shared interest.