That’s (STILL) the Only Song They Know

A few years ago I wrote this blog post for the good folks over at California Golden Blogs. As we prepare to play USC tomorrow I wanted to update because after a couple of tough losses we still have the brass ring in front of us to grab. Some of you are a little bummed after the UCLA game and I have one piece of advice for you… GET OVER IT!!! We’re 5-2. This thing is ours to take, so get on board and be a part of it!

I was trying to come up with an opening for this little trip down amnesia lane regarding the 1991 CAL – USC game… but the Los Angeles Times did such a great job capturing the moment I decided to let their great work get us started. So from the Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1991

BERKELEY — California mocked about everything that USC holds dear Saturday in its record-breaking 52-30 rout of the Trojans.


The Golden Bears’ offense mocked the Trojans’ defense, getting 601 total yards to fall 22 yards shy of Notre Dame’s record for a USC opponent, established in a 26-6 Irish victory in 1946.


In particular, junior tailback Russell White mocked the Trojans’ rushing defense, running for a USC opponent-record 229 yards and three touchdowns, and senior quarterback Mike Pawlawski mocked the Trojans’ passing defense, throwing for 212 yards and three touchdowns.


In the stands, Cal students mocked the Trojan band.


To the tune of “Tribute to Troy,” the song that is played incessantly by the USC band, they sang the following lyrics:

It’s the only song you know

It’s boring and it’s slow

We really wish you’d go


And if he had made the trip, the white horse that serves as USC’s mascot might have been shot down by the hillside cannon above Memorial Stadium that shoots blanks every time the Golden Bears score.


As it was, the horse, Traveler, spent the day safe at home in Southern California, which is where the befuddled Trojans returned Saturday night with the booming sound of the cannon still ringing in their ears.

Ah, yes… Just picture it folks. Pre-internet… All those USC alumni, um “students” and followers in the southland starting their Sunday mornings by picking up the LA Times and reading about how everything they hold dear had just been obliterated. It wasn’t bad enough their team had just been routed, but the band – THE BAND – had just been humiliated on national TV too…

That is the only song you know…

That was twenty years ago! (The weird thing is I am only 15 years older, so I’m not sure how that works…) We talked about this early in the year but seeing as the pride of South Central will be making their appearance in Berkeley tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to revisit this again.
A little more than twenty years ago, all was right in the world on the USC front. They were sucking. Oh were they sucking. As most of you know, even the younger folks, CAL was having some kind of special year in 1991. It had started in 1990 when Coach Snyder led the Golden Bears to their first bowl appearance in more than a decade. In that year we had ended an 18 game losing streak to UCLA and fought to a hard earned tie against the Trojans in the Coliseum (a game which we should have won… see, being a Bear fan never changes).

Heading into the 1991 season CAL fans were primed for something special and we weren’t about to be disappointed. After barely losing to Washington in one of the most epic battles old Memorial Stadium had ever seen, CAL entered the game against U$¢ ranked in the top 10 at 6-1.

It was nationally televised on ABC – our third nationally televised game of the year. This was some heady stuff. There were representatives from all the bowls just clamoring to experience CAL football. There was a sense of anticipation as 70,000+ people filled Memorial. It was a glorious sunny day; just a picture post card day in Strawberry Canyon. Back then we still had bonfire rallies when the LA teams would come to town. So that Friday night, 5,000 people filled the Greek and that was my chance to teach the students a mocking song for the SC band. Now when I last told this story I gave credit for this to my roommate, Mike Pawlawski but really it was his then girlfriend and soccer player Tracy who was the lyricist (as she reminded me over and over). As I am guessing all of you know, Mike was the starting QB and a great fun guy. That week, Mike, Tracy and I were hanging out and started putting lyrics to that insipid SC dirge… It went like this:

That, is the only song you know
It’s boring and it’s slow
You really need to go….

Elegant. Simple. True. So that Friday night, with the team and Coach Snyder at the Greek, I taught it to the students and instructed them that the following day, every time the SC band played it, we would answer back in serenade… And that is exactly what we did… It was hilarious… As we piled up the score, the SC band, with every 1-2 yard gain by an SC rusher, would strike up the song and sure enough the entire student section would answer back… It was, I think, the CAL student section’s finest hour. As you saw, the LA Times printed it verbatim, it was picked up repeatedly by the ABC broadcast, it was commented on in the OC Register, the Bay Area papers, ESPN… it was awesome… now as the game wore on, the lyrics evolved into not so family friendly lyrics, which I wasn’t particularly comfortable with, but hey, what are you going to do.

Here’s something I’ve never shared with anybody… I have a regret from that game…. I wanted to keep extemporaneously updating the lyrics, but I wasn’t sure if I could get the students to do it… Immediately after the game I knew they would have and I had blown it… It was very simple once we got to 52… the lyrics would have gone something like this:

Hey, SC here’s news for you

The scoreboard’s in clear view


Hey, SC here something new

Tommy Trojan’s through

Your horse will soon be gluuuuue

I share that with you because the lesson is, never… ever… ever… pass up on opportunity to mock USC.

The other particularly great moment to this day remains my favorite cheer. SC has deluded themselves into thinking they’re a great academic school, if not on par, then close to CAL. I laugh. I just laughed again. You should be laughing when you read that. Their coach had also said that most players who chose CAL didn’t choose CAL as their first choice… So with that in mind, late in the game, I had the whole student section yell:

“HEY U! S! C!


The alumni section ROARED their approval. The SC students and fans that were left gave us the highest compliment by flipping off the student section… By chance, there was a quiet moment in the ABC broadcast and that chant was picked up clear as a bell by the broadcast. It was glorious!

After the game, nobody wanted to leave. The fans stayed 15, 20, 30 minutes just soaking in the joy. We did the loudest C-A-L cheer I had ever heard in the stadium.

There were celebrations all around campus… Parts of the band would show up at Henry’s and at Raleighs as everyone would raise their glasses. Coach Snyder stopped in Henry’s and the entire place broke out in Bear Territory. Those moments last forever…

And from coast to coast people read about how dominant CAL was… as in the New York Times “CAL EXPLODES AGAINST USC” and just what a thorough beat down we gave them:

“It was a lot of fun,” said Pawlawski, who has never masked his dislike for the Trojans, despite having grown up in Southern California. “It’s not going to change my dislike for them at all.”

As Sports Illustrated reported “In Berkeley, as California was beating the Trojans, 52-30, Cal students derided the USC band.”

So I hope that gets you a little fired up for the game on Saturday. We had a hick-up last Thursday, but now is our chance to take over the season. We are 5-2.  I’m calling out the students… Tomorrow, you need to be there early and you need to be loud. You need to get this song going again… Obviously it works best when we’re winning so you need to be loud and help the team. And I’m calling out all my fellow alumni and non students… … I don’t expect everyone to stand the whole game, but when our Golden Bears take the field, and the band is playing Fight, you should be roaring and you should be on your feet.

As I said to the team before the season, this is our time. This team, these players, these true student athletes who exemplify the very spirit of CAL… these sons of California deserve your support. They want your support. They need your support.




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