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November 1, 2009

Commentary: A lesson in winning

Eugene, Ore.- Somewhere and somehow during USC's disastrous blowout loss to Oregon, I felt like I understood LeGarrette Blount a little more.

I thought a fan was going to get clocked, and after what went down at Autzen Stadium Saturday after Oregon's 47-20 win, it's a surprise you don't see it more.

Not only did a swarm of fans take over the football field, but some took it upon themselves to throw a little salt in USC's wounds. There were some sarcastic words of encouragement, and there was physical contact as Trojan players walked off the field.

"It's tough. This just sucks; it just sucks," Malik Jackson said. "You want to hit somebody- you do. But, you can't. I think we all know that Coach (Pete Carroll) would find out. You know someone would see it, and it would reflect poorly on you, your team and USC."

Jackson was among the USC players last into the locker room, as he slowly walked off the field while the Ducks' fans continued to party.

"After the game, I was very upset," Jackson said. "I watched the fans all run on the field. I saw how excited they were, and I thought that could be us."

And while he was at his lowest, an Oregon fan touched him on his chest and sarcastically thanked him for coming to town, using much cruder language of course. It's that moment that makes me afraid in that setting.

Jackson could have punched that fan, and you could make a fairly easy argument that he deserved it. He could've let out his frustration on that smug face, and it may have been justifiable.

But, thankfully, Jackson showed maturity and poise in that moment, and continued to walk off the field.

There are a lot of lessons the USC players can learn from this 27-point loss, lessons that will be dissected and pointed out in film study over the next few days. But as fans of any team, there's a lesson here for us. It's about winning and respecting your opponent.

I don't want this to sound like some spoiled USC fan is complaining, and I'm not saying all USC fans handle victory with class. No, I speak to all fans everywhere, fans of every team. After winning like Oregon did, it's fine for there to be an explosion of joy. Go celebrate with your friends and your players.

Most Oregon fans did that.

But, don't be the guy standing by the USC locker room, hiding behind a Halloween costume, spewing obscenities and mean words towards the team that just lost. They're more than anonymous numbers on uniforms. They're people. And, they're young.

If fans continue to poke and prod at emotionally wounded players, like it happened last night, college football is in for some serious trouble. Something bad will happen, just like it did with Blount.

Luckily for USC fans, that disaster didn't happen Saturday night thanks to maturity and restraint.

It might seem hokey to call for sportsmanship, and I'm not. I'm calling for decency. The losing players all know what just happened on the field. There's no need to remind them.



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