UCLA and USC are taking extra-early pains, this year, to avoid attacks on their inanimate war heros back at home camp.
A full two weeks before their annual opening football game on November 26 -- a tradition known to inspire mischief and brawl in the meekest of library nerds -- both campuses are whipping out their finest shieldry.
A successful hit on Bruin Bear or Tommy Trojan, after all...
... is like flicking a Kingpiece off the chess board. Doesn't really matter who wins the football game at that point; all devolves into freestyle battle of the most ridiculous order.
To name a few stunts of years past: UCLA's letters on USC's practice field. Red paint in the UCLA fountain. Blue paint on Tommy Trojan. 20,000 red-and-gold crickets in the UCLA library. Blue-and-gold flagpoles in the USC stadium parking lot. (We're beginning to see a pattern here.)
Most costly of the bunch, though, was an epic $20,000 act of vandalism upon the Bruin in 2009 -- a coat of many USC colors that proved a gargantuan bitch to scrub off.
And in this economy?? Not cool. So the next year, according to the Daily Bruin, "the custom-made metal frame and tarpaulin used to cover the bear in the past [was] replaced with a wooden enclosure."
The new digs apparently worked their magic so well that the Bruin Bear Security Force has dusted them off again for the 2011 kick-off.
As of last week, the Bruin has been encased in a $5,000 wooden box, virtually indestructible for its "jigsaw puzzle" mega-grip. And Tommy's all dolled up in his usual duct-tape mummy wrap, as well. (Really, Tommy -- get a new ABC costume already. So frosh. We even preferred the "Occupy USC" hobo look.)
But hey, as long as these crazy kids are drawing from the arts-n-crafts box instead of some rusty knife briefcase in the parking lot, we're all good.
Update: Awww. And his little horsey too!