After the ‘Thrill’ is gone from the pages


When I first took this column two and a half years ago, I envisioned saying goodbye in a three-part series.

The first would be a detailed look at the birth of the column. Part two would be a retelling of its life.

Part three would be an in-depth look at its title, “Thrilla on Manilla Paper.” After all, you deserve to know what in the world could possibly have led to such a name. And before this is all over, you might still get that explanation.

But instead of a three column series, it is just this one.

I thought, two and a half years ago, by the time it was all said and done, I’d need thousands of words to sum everything up. Instead, it’s just a few hundred on this piece of paper.

In fact, one sentence might do the trick. So here it goes.

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

It’s a journey that has truly traversed this campus and country.

It has gone from the steps of Heritage Hall to the gates of Dedeaux Field, from press row at Galen Center to the tallest heights of the Coliseum.

It’s a trip that’s taken me from Los Angeles to the top of a hill in Berkeley; from the cozy confines of South Bend, Ind., to the open air of Seattle, Wash.

It’s taken me from a stadium that seats 100,000 people in Columbus, Ohio, to a stadium that sounds like it seats 100,000 people in Eugene, Ore.

Simply being there has been remarkable and being able to share it with you through my lens has been just as great.

But simply being there is not the story. No, this column would be far more boring if it were just a retelling of the places I’ve been.

Postcards are for brief hellos and goodbyes. Columns are not. Columns are a place for opinion and analysis — a look at what has occurred along that journey.

But again, this would just be a space filled with words if there were no characters. So I owe it to all the men and women who have graced these pages along the way, who have made the stories what they were — and given me the ability to write what I’ve written.

There was Pete Carroll, who over the last four years was one of the most quotable people on the planet.

He reveled in every win, and was quick to point out who deserved praise, wallowed in each loss and never hesitated to point the finger at himself.

Without Carroll, this would just been stories about a football team. Instead, wins and losses took on a life of their own, with Carroll’s commentary as an integral part of their interpretations one way or another.

There was Joe McKnight, whose tenure at USC was a tumultuous one, filled with great promise and flashes of brilliance as well as great disappointment.

Without McKnight, this would have been a football team with a lot of running backs. Instead, it was a football team with a bevy of backs, one of which could have been legendary.

There was Tim Floyd, Taj Gibson, Dwight Lewis, Daniel Hackett, O.J. Mayo and DeMar Derozan. All six were central figures in the meteoric rise of USC basketball and key players in its sudden fall.

There is Jovan Vavic, the candid and quotable head coach of USC’s top-ranked water polo teams. He reached the pinnacle of the sport but found obstacles in his attempt to repeat — that was, until he got over the hump.

But again, it would just be a story if not for Vavic’s passion and intensity. He spoke his mind and wore his emotions on his sleeve, making for more than just some article about a few games in a pool.

There have been dozens of other names that have crossed these pages, each with a story to tell and each with the unique ability to make a story more than just words.

Really, all I’ve done over the last two and a half years is mix their words and actions with my opinions. What you have as the end result is a column.

Whether you’ve agreed with me or not is not important. It’s whether you’ve taken the time to agree with me or not that’s more important.

If you have, thank you. I hope you’ve been able to take something away from this.

The inches left in this paper are running low, so before I say goodbye for good, let me explain one last thing: my column’s name.

I wanted to name it “From the Parking Lot,” in reference to a shot by former Vermont basketball player T.J. Sorrentine. He hit a deep three late in a first round game against Syracuse in 2005, securing an upset for the No. 13 Catamounts. The shot was from way behind the arc, prompting Gus Johnson to say: “Sorrentine hit that one from the parking lot.”

But the Daily Trojan’s sports editor at the time, Peter Simones, said the reference was too obscure. Instead, after brainstorming, a title playing off one of the greatest boxing matches of all time was chosen.

Clever, I know.

Anyway, now that the name situation has been settled, that time is drawing near. It’s the time where this column comes to an end.

But before it’s knocked out for good, I want to leave you with a quote from General MacArthur. He said, “Old columnists never die, they just fade away.”

Actually, I don’t think that’s what he said. But it’s too late now. There’s no space left to talk about it, no columns left to write.

“Thrilla on Manilla Paper” ran every other Friday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Grant at tunkel@usc.edu.