Marvin Goux has vicious black eves and over each one a heavy strip of macadam that looks like an eyebrow. He wears his hair cut short, in the style popular at state prisons, and he keeps his belly taut and flat for the Hollywood bit parts he plays by wearing rubber corsets that make him sweat when he is on the field at the University of Southern California, where he works as an assistant coach for John McKay. Marv's manly figure has been seen on the screen whipping Tony Curtis into submission with a felt bullwhip, and on other less attractive adventures. Marv has a good scowl, a commendable frown. He comes across like trouble ahead. He is known as a fellow who rises to the occasion.
Last week Marv rose again. He was in his favorite role, and he was not just acting. Before he is anything else, Marv Goux is a Trojan. In Los Angeles, a town divided, that means being about half right. Marv played as a USC lineman from 1952-1956. He has been coaching other Trojans since 1957, and it does not take much persuasion to get him to give his I-was-born-one-and-I'll-die-one speech. He made two such speeches to the USC team in the last hours before the UCLA game. One was in the locker room after practice on Friday, with the USC band jammed in there and coeds outside trying to hear. And the other was in the same room just before play began on Saturday. Outsiders don't know it, but Goux is USC's inspiration man.
Goux had this picture of Coach McKay, looking down at the ground after last year's loss to UCLA. He held the picture up and he said the Trojans had to win for John McKay, because McKay is the guy who puts up with them, the guy who had really been taking it in the slats for the past two years from Los Angeles people who said Tommy Prothro of UCLA had his number, and it wasn't the unlisted one. Goux said they also had to win for themselves, because it was not possible for a true Trojan to go through life contented without having beaten UCLA and the seniors were down to their last chance. He said they had to win for Harley Tinkham, too, the L.A. sportswriter who had hinted that they could not (if they got old Harley after the game they were going to give him a shower with his clothes on). He said they had to win to be national champions and go to the Rose Bowl but, more than that, to be champions of Los Angeles.
"Listen, listen," said Marv. "The worst thing in life is to be a prisoner. I could never be a prisoner. Never. I would rather die. We've been prisoners to those indecencies over there for two years. Today's the day we go free."
November 27, 1967
He actually said those things. In cold print they suffer, but if you had heard them you would know a little more about what makes an intense college football rivalry so, well, so intense. Red Sanders used to say that USC-UCLA was not a life or death matter. It was more important than that. Take John McKay. John McKay is a hero the country over, a brilliant coach. If coaches were rated for the most imitated, he would be national champion. He has one southern friend who calls him up every week. The coach gets his whole staff on the line and they listen while McKay tells them what he is going to do that week. McKay is sought after and he goes around making confident speeches, being interviewed on television, winning games in places like South Bend, Ind., doing things in style. But in Los Angeles, when it comes to the UCLA game, he bristles over every piece of criticism that implies USC is not as well coached or is not as deserving as UCLA.
So Marv Goux said they had to win it for John McKay, and after that some of the players got up and echoed his sentiments, though not quite so eloquently. Adrian Young, the linebacker, got so full of emotion and eagerness that he just broke off in midsentence and sat down and said, "Aw, that's all."
McKay did not say much. He told his team it would be coming back to the locker room in two hours or so. "It'll be the shortest walk of your life," he said, "or the longest." And he sent them out.
It was the shortest. When they came back they splattered the walls with Coke and each other with Coke, and McKay tried to give the game ball to O. J. Simpson. But the players would have none of that. "You keep it!" they shouted. "You keep it!" And he did.