Yesterday’s news: Blood Bowl ’82 … a Hall of Fame kind of day

Tom Hoffarth /

Forty years ago, this happened.

A contest of attempted athleticism followed this photo op. And then, probably, a trip to Tommy’s hours later in the rain for some comfort food.

The Daily Trojan (representing a university that once had a separate school of journalism, now consolidated into a communications department) kept up the tradition of collecting members its newspaper staff to participate in an annual flag football contest against the Daily Bruin (a school still without a journalism program but with access to newsprint).

This battle of wits has been called the “Blood Bowl.”

Mostly, it’s just a few scrapes and skid marks. A black eye or two. Maybe even self-inflicted. Nothing to call Keck Medicine about.

This meet and greet happens on an agreed-upon day leading up to the scheduled USC-UCLA football contest. The home team aligns with whether the “real” game happens either at the Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.

That game, for what it’s worth, hasn’t really inspired a nickname. Marketeers have tried to incorporate some “gauntlet” thing. A “Victory Bell” is always at stake. We once took a media poll and the consensus was to call it “The ‘Wood vs. the Hood.”

In 1982, the Blood Bowl was at the UCLA practice field next to Pauley Pavilion – that’s in the background of this photo. It came prior to the Nov. 20 Trojans-Bruins season-ending game at the Rose Bowl. That one was won by No. 11 UCLA, 20-19, when Karl Morgan sacked Scott Tinsley on a two-point conversion attempt with no time left – there was no overtime, so No. 15 USC and coach John Robinson, ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, decided to go for the victory instead of a tie — but that’s incidental to any of this and should not be mentioned again).

UCLA also defeated USC in this Blood Bowl – we remember it as 12-0 mess on a muddy Spaulding Field that involved slipping, sliding and sloppiness in inappropriate shoes.

My one contribution was falling down while trying to cover a UCLA receiver, but an under-thrown pass landed right in my hands. I cradled it for an interception and felt like Ronnie Lott.

Forty years later, what else could possibly be memorable? Depends on your mental capacity.

When scribe Scott Wolf posted this team photo recently, real estate financier and UCLA grad Michael Gottleib had a response:

“I was on the advertising team for Daily Bruin and played in that game.  …  The advertising guys carried the load. My recollection is UCLA won 6-0. I scored on a 99 yard hook and ladder and that was the only score. It was …  and was testy for sure. I graduated but came back for next game at USC, and I recall a few scuffles in that game and one of the TV stations aired some highlights on the news. I didn’t think there was a bigger highlight than my TD, but now I can see I played against Randy Johnson.”

Yes, we had Randy Johnson.

And he was magnificently terrible.

When the once-aspiring Daily Trojan photographer (now is a pretty famous photographer – see his body of work) was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, I thought it was appropriate to post this column explaining all his contributions to the contest.

That included a Daily Trojan touchdown called back because of an illegal block downfield – by Johnson.

Not to be too star struck, but UCLA had some notable names on its side as well, that we choose not to mention here for fear of ego inflation. You know who you were, David Kahn.

Wait, you had a bunch of guys from the ad department on your roster? From this team photo, I can tell you there’s no Mad Men present. Just journos. Pretty much. And a freakin’ Hall of Famer who knew how to snap off a Konica lens when the time calls for it.

And for what it’s worth, as noted in G. Scott Thomas’ new book, “Cooperstown at the Crossroads,” Johnson in his first year of eligibility received 97.27 percent of the votes to top the ballot, ahead of Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio, and Johnson’s “quality score of 89 points established him as the top-rated inductee since Mike Schmidt two decades earlier.”

Not sure exactly what that means, but all we know is we never took the time to ask the Big Unit to autograph any one of our bruises. Because, well, who knew?

Forty years is kinda mind blowing to look at that team photo, which exists only on photo paper, created in a dark room. If the game and everything around it was in full color, this is what we have now as the memory — like the last wedding scene in the movie “Diner.”

These were the career-aspiring, pre-Internet, read-the-newspaper ass kickers who laughed and wrote and drank and wrote and crammed and wrote and got on each other and wrote.

Guys and girls, some of whose names I can’t remember, and surely, they don’t recall mine either. Some are just nicknames given to them at 4 in the morning during some deadline rush to get the paper finished so we could figure out how we’d attempt that 8 a.m. Science For the Non-Scientist Class.

Over the last four decades, a few of them did really special things in big-time journalism. Even the guy wearing a lacrosse shirt. Maybe that’s why we were confused about what we were doing out there.

I see my trusted roommate and best-man at one of my several weddings – the guy with no shoes, far left. He had the right footwear for this game. And in life in general.

I see a friend who passed away.

I smile again when I see the guy wearing a No. 18 jersey in the front row who should also be in the Baseball Hall of Fame for his life of photography. I’m next to him — the idiot with the cheesy mustache and plastic Trojan helmet. Which still has mud on it and sits on my bookshelf.

There’s a game ball I collected after it was over and took it back to my dilapidated off-campus apartment. It’s in a box somewhere in the garage. I went searching for it the other day and came up empty. Maybe I should rescue it for some better shelf space.

The ultimate takeaway from any of this: Take, and save, lots of pictures with your friends. Forty years later, you never know who’ll amount to anything. There could be this 6-foot-10 guy in the back row, a head taller than anyone. It’s doubtful this photo-op is in his Top One Million memories. It’s gotta be in our Top 20.

Then again, with all the crazy things that happened in our lives since then, the rest of us maybe sleep easier knowing we never killed a bird with a fastball in a Major League Baseball game. So we got that going for us.

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