Season Preview Q&A With Arrogant Nation's Zack Jerome
Will: What have you been doing with Arrogant Nation over summer to prep for the 2012 season?
Zack: Prep not hype, right? Honestly, I've been working out hard in the gym to be in peak physical condition and just running scenarios, studying up on opponents and possible storylines. I think giving everyone a break in the offseason is a good thing because the blog coming back starts to really drive home that opening day feeling.
W: For the uninitiated, what’s your general mission for this season?
Z: This is the end of the trilogy. I started by trying to get our fans to avoid believing the bad press, to not give up. I wanted us to take the NCAA's best punch. We're still standing. This year, we win it all by showing that we took a sucker punch, stayed on our feet and knocked the opponent out.
W: Is this more "The Dark Knight Rises" or "Return of the Jedi?"
Z: That's tough because we're definitely setting up to be the NCAA's reckoning.
W: Gotta pick one. Or toss out a threequel that's escaping me.
Z: Return of the King. Barkley is the king. I'm that dude from Rohan who stirs up an army.
W: Loosely speaking of Batman, and thus Bane/Lane Kiffin, what do you expect from the visored head coach?
Z: He wants the "clouds" gone that he's spoken about for the past couple of years. Every play call he makes will be under a microscope. I expect him to stay crazy and go for broke.
W: Since this is the end of the Arrogant Nation trilogy, will you be hanging up the football pen after this season's conclusion?
Z: I haven't decided. I got to email with Loel Schrader before he passed away, who made the USC Hall of Fame as a writer. My personal goal is to be the first blogger ever to get that honor. I'll have to see how my body of work stacks up and what we achieve. I know that I will hang the pen up when it's the right time. I don't want to be the guy who sticks around too long. I was just nominated for L.A. Weekly's Web Awards for Best Sports Blog. I'm at the top of my game right now. But one day, I might need to go another direction. For now, I have one goal.
W: Which is?
Z: Make every point that probably isn't politically correct about USC's refusal to back down while the team runs the table.
W: You've expressed love for your alma mater, and the students enjoy your stuff, but have you ever been concerned that with your platform that you may be painting the university in a poor light? How do you deal and respond to criticism that you surely encounter?
Z: There's a fine line in my writing between parody and truth, and I think that's why it works. I am often taken with a grain of salt, but that allows me to be very direct. USC stands on its own merits academically. In the end I got a writing degree there and now have a blog that gets over a million views a year. I have had a great career so far. I think I am painting the school in a great light. I do respect anyone who disagrees and largely. the school has been supportive of me.
W: Last spring, you had mentioned the forthcoming Arrogant Nation Anthology. What's the status of that?
Z: It's done, but given what this season is shaping up to be, it might need to include this year. I want to tell the whole story of what happened. It's in a sense my 30 for 30 on the sanctions era. It may need one more year. It was over 500 pages long already, so I'll have to figure that out, but reliving it was classic.
Z: I mean, the beginning was epic: seeing the idea catch on, watching it grow; but the catalyst was last year's Oregon game. The spike in traffic; the energy was back like it was 2005. I saw it in my head. Barkley would stay; Kiffin would be immortalized. That was when all of what's to come was put in motion. The Oregon fans flooded my site like never before. I knew it was the moment they felt that fear, that big brother was coming back home.
W: When we spoke last, you stated that reaching out to people either directly or indirectly affected by cancer was the most important thing that you do. Have you done anything more with that, speaking events, etc.?
Z: It's been very grassroots, but I get emailed a lot by people going through it or with a relative who is going through it. I always give them my number and try to be a source of comfort or experience if possible. It can be a lonely place, and I try to donate to organizations in the field as much as possible.
W: Finally, what are your thoughts/predictions for the home opener against Hawaii and for the season?
Z: Hawaii will be no problem. There might be a moment early where we need to calibrate ourselves, maybe give up a few TDs thinking our expectations will make the other team quit, but the cream will rise. If this team is focused, they should run the table barring injury. It's got a special feel to it. There will be scares, but this feels like the year.