Thursday, January 28, 2010

USC vs. USC not the first initial battle

Having never lived in Southern California, I don't know if the folks there have the luxury of taking time out from their pine tar and gila monster droppings mud baths at the spa to care about their university's battle of initials with the University of South Carolina. USC has won the battle so far, but USC isn't giving up just yet on what may turn out to be the most famous of the many battles over initials that have taken place. Frankly there should be a third contender in the battle for the most famous use of SC, one that has nothing to do with athletics.

Earlier this week, a federal appeals court upheld a trademark board's decision that South Carolina could not feature an interlocking "SC" logo on it's baseball team's caps. Normally, any decision involving Gamecock baseball gets the attention of 47-and-a-half people, including members of the baseball team. Sure, the couple thousand fans that typically show up for baseball games at South Carolina pretend they are watching, but about 1,940 of them are usually busy discussing whether the Gamecocks football team will ever return to it's glory days of contending for third-place in the SEC East and getting invited to the Outback Bowl. But the logo decision has ignited a long-simmering anger among a lot of Gamecock fans because it reminded them yet again that, in the eyes of the nation, South Carolina will never be the real USC. That title forever belongs to the University of Southern California.

Indeed it was Southern Cal who challenged South Carolina's logo because it looks too much like the one USC (Southern Cal USC, that is) has used for many years. Southern Cal's attorney, Scott Edelman, then poured salt on the wound by saying the logo fit the Trojans' warrior image more than "a goofy little chicken." Some on South Carolina's side have tried to fight back by pointing out that South Carolina came along before USC (Carolina founded in 1801, USC in 1880), and that the last time the two schools met on the football field in 1983, the Gamecocks won 38-14. Or, as Neil White wrote in "The State" newspaper, "two little words: Lane Kiffin."

There are two problems with those arguments. If it happened before the iPhone came out, you might as well be arguing that South Carolina is better because a T-Rex who lived in what is now Columbia ate those pesky little velociraptors from what is now Los Angeles. The cocaine or frog-licking afflicted memory of So-Cal folk only goes back so far, and not as far as the meth-afflicted memory of an Upstater. For the 18 people in So-Cal who don't use drugs, reminding them of Kiffin's hiring as the Trojans' football coach is not an insult. USC fans take Kiffin as a compliment because he and his family are so purty, which is the number one quality Southern Californians look for in a person.

So the battle for initials appears headed the same way as other famous, or maybe not-so-famous, battles for letter supremacy. The World Wildlife Fund won a Royal Rumble over Vince McMahon for use of the WWF letters and logo, and 97-percent of the world promptly forgot what WWF stood for. The Atlanta Braves thought they would have supremacy over the "AB" logo, but of course lost out to Food Network guru Alton Brown, who won his case by pointing out the Braves were full of lecithin (which, regardless of whether it comes from soybeans or egg yolks has low solubility in water).

Though it appears Southern Cal has beaten South Carolina, don't think for a minute the battle of SC is over. There should be another contender, one that has had more of a positive impact on people's lives than both universities combined. I speak, of course, of the "Sick Call", the greatest radio program in the history of Athens, Alabama. Were it not for the "Sick Call", thousands of folks would never have had their "death and funerals" announced over the radio. The same can be said for thousands more who were patients at Athens-Limestone Hospital, and the rest of us who were fortunate to have lived in Athens would have no idea that Hometown Grocery had turkey necks, lard, and tampons on sale this week. So if there is a lawyer who could represent the "Sick Call" in this ongoing fight, I would bankroll it...if I had any money. Then, after the "Sick Call" got its due, perhaps Athens itself will go after those goobers in Georgia and Greece for the right to call itself the true home of real Athenians.

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