Many USC athletic achievements unseen

Matt Barkley. Dwight Lewis. Jennifer Song.

These are students known for their athletic talents. They get recognized with scholarships and accolades. You’ve even read about them in this space.

But it’s been a goal here at “Spittin’ Sports” to draw your attention to some of the lesser known but equally talented athletes on campus. Today, I would like to do that again by recognizing a group that gets no scholarships, MVP awards or national championships.

You, the student body.

I see you every day dodging bicycles, skateboards, tractors, bobcats, caterpillars, motorized scooters, buses and Department of Public Safety cars. Patches O’Houlihan would be proud.

It’s incredible. I’ve seen students walk out of Taper Hall at 11:50 a.m. onto Trousdale Parkway, look to the left at the herd of wildebeests on bikes and skateboards approaching and do a better buttonhook than Ronald Johnson. I’ve seen students execute spin moves on bikes that would make Joe McKnight blush.

It’s a fact — Trojans are inherently athletic. It’s in the Trojan Family’s blood. Freshmen just learning how to walk around campus possess the jab step right, go-left maneuver and have perfected the hesitation move to open up space down the lane.

But it’s not just the walkers who possess all the talent. The bikers and skateboarders deserve some kudos too. Before I came to USC, I wasn’t aware that every competitor in the Summer X Games attends this school.

How else do you explain how the 10,000 students trying to get to their 2 p.m. class arrive without injury (mostly)? Students on beach cruisers have the quickest reaction time this side of the star-nosed mole (fastest reaction time of any animal, Google it). Without even paying attention, the beach cruiser-ites can apply the brakes at a moment’s notice as a faster and more agile mountain biker cuts in front of them at the last possible second.

What’s more remarkable is that despite everything that is thrown into the bikers’ paths, they still manage to hold a conversation. The other day, my buddy Edd and I were separated by two bikers, a skateboarder and a USC Hospitality mobile, and our conversation remained unfazed.

The skateboarders are equally as quick and sporty. You think the sidewalks around campus and on University Avenue are smooth sailing? You must not be a skateboarder then. Every crack and uneven surface presents an obstacle for the riders of the four-wheeled device. Instantaneously, they must decide to channel their inner Bode Miller and go around it by imagining every walker turned into a slalom gate or jump over it à la Tony Hawk.

Many of these bikers and boarders have more cajones than Evel Knievel. Riding at high speeds and in crowded areas, they cruise along with no helmet and little regard for the unfortunate soul who happens to cross their path. The worst mistake USC ever made was putting the medical school across town.

Despite all these fast-twitch muscle fibers roaming Child’s Way, inevitably there are students more athletic (or stupid) than others. This results in some of the best crashes not caused by Tony Stewart. Sitting in front of the Catholic Center for an hour in the middle of a weekday is like lying on the sand in Tahiti staring at the stars. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll see what you’re looking for.

Even some of the highly rated recruits and avid readers of the “How To Get Around USC” playbook find themselves on the ground every now and then. But what keeps those students upright more than others are a few careful techniques that can only be picked up by years of training and experience.

Those practices involve drafting — the act of following another rider to decrease the effort exerted but more importantly using the person in front as a battering ram; field vision — the act of keeping your head on a swivel but never making eye contact with the student approaching you; and knowledge of the course — taking the back roads to get to your destination.

It has been rumored recently that DPS and the university are thinking about removing bikes from campus and forcing students to park them on the outskirts. I think this is the worst idea since O.J. Mayo. Doing so would prevent students from displaying their natural athletic gifts on a daily basis and would remove much of the fun that is involved in getting to and from class.

Given all this talent, there is still one enemy the student body just hasn’t figured out how to beat. It hits the students in the head, causes them to swerve into curbs, grabs their backpack as their skateboard keeps going and ends up broken at least once a week, probably because of the frustration of a student who just barged right through it.

Someday, students will learn to dodge the yellow gate.

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