December 5, 1998: "Our Bill Buckner" Moment(s)

Warning: this post is going to cut open some old but raw wounds, recalling my most painful day as a fanatic of UCLA football. If you don't want to deal with the agony, stop right here. -N GO BRUINS.

December 5, 1998, a day unquestionably is my most painful one as a UCLA Bruin. I imagine everyone here in some way or another remember this:

There are just so many ifs.

Most of you probably remember the non-fumble by Brad Melsby which became the last turning point of the entire game. He was obviously down.

What if the refs. made the right call on that play?

But I think more crucial that what-if was the one involving ?Poli Butter Fingers? Dixon fumbling away earlier in the 4th quarter. Don?t remember what I am referring to?

The play that is burned into my brain is the one that shows up at 3:31 minute mark in the video I posted above.

What if Brian Poli "Butterfingers" Dixon didn't fumble that ball? IMHO that was our Bill Buckner moment.

I still believe if Dixon hadn?t fumbled that ball away, we would have marched on to score another TD, and put Miami away for good in that game. We would have gone on to beat Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl and never looked back.

Our program would have been at a different level. And we wouldn't be saddled with a mentality where we are told to sit down and shut up and be happy with a program that is not confident in itself about contending for a conference championship, let alone a national championship.

Anyways, here on BN I have visited the other end of the memory lane of Bruin moments by posting Tyus's magical 4.8 seconds and ask you guys to recount exactly where you were and what you were doing when that moment happened. Might as well go the other route. Where were you on December 5, 1998?

I was shell shocked, staring at the big screen blankly at Champions Sports Bar, in downtown Boston. I was with four other friends - UCLA alums who were attending law schools around Boston - who sat with me motionless having no clue what to say after that Melsby fumble. Pretty much all of them on the verge of tears. And there was nothing we could say to make each other feel better. We knew we had just choked away probably the best opportunity to appear in a national championship game and permanently alter the perception around UCLA football program in last 20-30 years.

What was even more heartbreaking about that game was that it was televised on Eastern Sports Programming Network infront of the blowhard Game Day crew. Through the whole game the insufferable Lee Corso was running his mouth about the soft UCLA football team who?d rather be on their surf boards than play football. And that one single game crystallized the national perception around football program.

Toledo never recovered from that game as the program went down the toilet. And when we had a golden opportunity to take the program in a new direction four years ago, the old Donahue hack ? Bob Field ? made sure UCLA stuck in the same mindset from the mediocre years of Donahue which was limited to the vision of winning conference championships and beating Southern Cal.

And Dorrell to date has failed to live up to even those expectations extolled by Donahue.

What would have happened if Poli Dixon handn?t fumbled or refs called Melsby down?

I?d bet this particular Nation is still agonizing over those plays just like the Red Sox one did over Bill Buckner, until they shook off the proverbial monkey off their back in 2004.

Unless Karl Dorell wins a Pac-10 championship, beats Southern Cal, and gets UCLA to at least a Rose Bowl, those questions will not go away any time soon.

That is why it is imperative for him to either get it done or hit the road this coming season.


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