Reflections From Tunnel 4-H, Row 47 Seat 105.
Wherever I am, I bleed Blue and Gold. But, the colors are more vibrant when I am at home, watching the game in person with my Bruin Brothers and Sisters.
Friday, I flew in from Exile to attend the game.
The score notwithstanding, yesterday was a special day.
It started with the tailgating and ended with the walk out. In spite of the score, it was a day filled with positive energy and surprisingly good Bruin vibes.
I love everything about being a Bruin.
Now that I've got a kid that is in a marching band I pay more attention to marching bands.
I love our band!!! Last week, I asked questions about the "band culture" at UCLA -- I was concerned that what was going on at Wisconsin might be a national thing. I got strong, reassuring responses from the BN band people. Deeply appreciated responses.
So, yesterday, after eating, I wandered over to watch the band and guard warm up. What I saw was exactly what I wanted to see. A group of great kids, serious but having fun. Warming up, sounding good. I went from section to section, took some pictures and hopefully got a little sound to share with Jen who stayed behind in Texas. (I managed to inadvertently embarrass Daynuh by asking to take her picture while she was in the drum line; I wanted Jen to have a face to put on the sage advice that Daynuh had given her on BN. Sorry, Daynuh -- but as your band mates teased you, because of all you do on BN, you are "famous".)
I had a chance to meet the guard director and band director -- they were gracious and supportive to a father who really wants his kid to go to UCLA and be in the guard or band (something the kid really wants, too.) Interestingly, Mr. Henderson had just come back from judging a competition of Texas high school bands. I guess he was impressed with what they do, gave me his card and told me to stay in touch.
I know it is tough for kids to get into UCLA, even kids whose grades are above a 4.0, but I really hope Jen can get into UCLA. I know she will love the band and guard energy and that it will anchor her college years in the same way that band and color guard are anchoring her high school years.
I know that if Jen can get into UCLA, her future will be in good hands.
It was great to be back with my seating section family -- we have grown up and grown old together. The little kid who sat behind me in the early '90's with his dad, went to UCLA, became a teacher, once passed out and puked all around us during an SC game, is now a young man, has a 4 year old kid of his own, and is a director of magnet schools for the LA Unified School District. He is a Bruin raising s new generation of Bruins. Our future is in good hands.
There is a distinct difference in the energy in the Rose Bowl this year. Yesterday, was not our best day on the field. But, there was very little negativity. People understand where we are and are CONFIDENT about where we are going.
The game looks very different from the stands than it does on TV.
First and foremost, our players play hard, play all out, play to win and take losing very seriously. There is no "joking" through bad times on our sidelines. This is part of the culture change.
A while back, I wrote a post about grading effort rather than accomplishment -- that I thought we had to judge this season by the effort we put out rather than our won/loss record. After yesterday, I believe that even more.
There have been constant questions about why we are playing certain players, both on the offense and defense.
I think the answer is clear. They are the best players we have at those positions.
The coaches know this best. They want to win. They are frustrated, too. They are putting the right people on the field -- the best they have.
Those kids are playing hard to the best of their abilities. I cannot ask for more.
A couple deserve mention.
Say what you will about Kevin Craft, but he is a total warrior. Watching in person, using my own focus, not the cameras -- on every snap, Kevin Craft is under siege. He rarely has the time to drop back and set up. He is hit, often very hard, on EVERY play. The fact that we can't run is obvious to all. So, they come after Craft -- hard. He gives every ounce he has.
Bell is a warrior with a huge heart. Because we have to at least try to run in every game, he is sent in to run, once in a while. And, most often he runs into walls. Yesterday, he was able to break a couple of runs. It is then that you see how injured he must be. Movement is not easy for him and it shows. So, why is he in the game? Because, with our need to pass, he is a ferocious blocker. There is always someone breaking through our O line, quickly, on every play and Bell more often than not picks him up. Think about this: Bell came to UCLA as a RUNNING back, not a blocking back. He is doing what he has to do probably not what he wants to do. This is not the season he expected but it is the season we need. Thank you, Kahlil.
People question why Michael Norris starts and plays so many downs. The answer seems clear to me. The coaches think he is the best player we have for the position. He looked very bad on two plays, yesterday. But, those passes were not on Norris, alone. They are on the entire D -- a D that has yet to figure out how to put pressure on a QB. He was given an unbelievable amount of time to throw and given the time, most every receiver will shake a coverage guy.
I wondered out loud to my seat mates what would happen if KC got that time -- especially with the great receivers we have. What we don't see on TV are the very good plays Norris makes, either making hard tackles or stripping away blockers so that others can get the ball carrier.
On both sides of the ball, you can see that the passion bucket, if not the skill bucket, is full.
The analogy is often drawn to Howland's first years here. Watching, in person, as Idid with Howland's teams, I can see that the analogy is apt.
And, I think all in the stands understand that.
In fact, on the last play of the game, Geoff got up and asked those of us remaining in the stands to make some noise -- to try to drown out the signal call from OSU's QB. The stands shook!
Enough said about the state of Bruin spirit.
And, then came the defining moment of my game day experience.
With stands that had started clearing out in the late parts of the third quarter only somewhat filled,
CRN came over and talked to us. Unbelievable, after what he had just gone through, he came over and talked to us.
Not some rah rah phony speech, but a deeply sincere talk along the lines of (paraphrased)
"I want you do know how much it means to us that you stayed and cheered until the end. This game is not what we wanted. I know you are frustrated. We are frustrated to. But, we will get there. I promise we will get there."
I know he will keep that promise
My passion bucket overflows -- not just for the football program but for everything it means to be a part of UCLA.
What a day. It is so great to be a Bruin!!!
. Our future is, indeed, in very good hands.