Thursday, October 6, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Run of His Life: The People vs. O. J. Simpson, excerpt four)

from The Run of His Life: The People vs. O. J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin:

Almost half a century earlier, the USC football machine had been willed into existence by one man, an obscure, Illinois-born academic named Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid. After bouncing around several different universities after the turn of the century, Dr. K, as he was known, became president of USC in 1921. There he faced a dilemma familiar to college presidents. “Supported by tuition, possessed of virtually no endowment (hardly more than $1 million by 1926) with which to finance its expansion, U.S.C. needed money,” the historian Kevin Starr has observed. “Football offered a solution.” Dr. K invested in recruiting, bands, and a magnificent new stadium, the Coliseum, which would serve as the centerpiece of the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles. Von KleinSmid’s gamble paid off beyond even his own imaginings. Trojan football became one of the few activities to unite the fractured metropolis of Los Angeles. When USC defeated Notre Dame on a last-second field goal in 1931, a crowd of 300,000, one third the population of the city, greeted the returning team at the train station. The passage of time did not dim the school’s (or the city’s) enthusiasm for the sport. By the 1950s, the Trojans’ greatest star was Frank Gifford, about whom a fellow student, the novelist Frederick Exley, would observe, “Frank Gifford was an All-America at USC, and I know of no way of describing this phenomenon short of equating it with being the Pope in the Vatican.”

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