Photo Credit: maveric2003 (flickr)
NOTE: This was written by muybienbien, a longtime reader and diehard UCLA fan (as you'll notice from this post). Because he's never posted on BN before and just joined, he has to sit out a day before he can post a fanpost. While these thoughts are all his own, I completely agree with every point he makes.
This is my first and could quite possibly be my last fanpost on this site. While everything I say here goes for football too, let’s restrict the focus of this post to men’s basketball. This is also incredibly long, so my apologies in advance. I also know that there are a lot of really great, passionate Bruins on this site, and to you, this post will quite literally be preaching to the choir. These "call-outs" are not directed at you, you are all amazing fans who do all you can.
I’ve been reading BruinsNation for the past three years. There have been some viewpoints that I’ve vehemently disagreed with, and some topics that I’ve fully supported. I certainly have had issues with some perspectives of those on this site, but that is to be expected when such passionate supporters discuss the teams that they cherish so dearly.
But the one aspect that I have ALWAYS respected about this site is the true, utter passion for Bruin athletics that each member of this community carries. People may disagree on the direction of a head coaching search, or which point guard should be playing, but when the whistle blows, everyone is pulling for the Bruins to win (if you’re not, well, then we got problems). This, quite sadly, is the one of the only places where I’ve found a group of Bruins who legitimately cares about their squads.
This is my sixth and final year of attending UCLA. Through my four years as an undergraduate (2004-2008), I have probably attended 90 UCLA basketball games – home, away, neutral, wherever. To say that my friends and I have been passionate Bruin supporters is a bit of an understatement. We camped out for almost every single game (be it USC or Coppin State) from 2005-2008, with Excel spreadsheets planning our hourly shifts. We drove 2,400 miles to Indianapolis for the Final Four. We flew to Tennessee and drove to Atlanta for another Final Four. And we drove another 1,700 miles to San Antonio for yes, a THIRD Final Four. So yeah, we were definitely lucky to have the opportunity to go to three Final Fours. I fully understand that. But we were also dedicated enough to be camping out for a Coppin State game 3 hours after upsetting USC in the glorious 13-9. And that is the part that I want to focus on.
Unfortunately, sadly, I graduated from college. I am fortunate enough to be able to continue to attend UCLA for graduate school (MS in electrical engineering) while I work in Redondo Beach. While I’ve still been able to attend most games, it’s safe to say that my campout days are officially over. I don’t think it flies to show up to work with sweats, a hoodie, and gloves from sleeping in a tent for 6 hours. Time to let the undergraduates have their fun, has been my mentality.
Today, I went to the Kansas game. We showed up 45 minutes before game time, expecting to be in the upper section. Nope, you, lucky sirs, get to sit down into the lower section. Really? We have the number one team and I don’t need to camp out or wake up at 6:00 AM for a priority pass. That’s kind of weak.
But I’ll trade quantity for quality anytime. And while the energy certainly was there at times (or maybe it was the loud, proud, and boisterous KU section, of which I’m admittedly envious), and I heard Pauley louder than it had been in a long time, it wasn’t there all the time. The energy needs to be there in the student section. I’m sure there was energy in the middle of the student section, where the people have camped out the longest. But the ends of the sections were pretty subdued. As in, some yelling and minimal jumping. And when we got down? It was pretty damn quiet. These are the times that matter most! The squad needs a lift, some energy to get them back on track, and everyone is quiet. When my buddy yells at the students to get up and make some noise, we shouldn’t see twelve sets of eyes turn around and look at us like we have leprosy.
You see, over my six years in LA, I’ve come to realize a lot about UCLA fans and the apathetic sports fandom of LA in general. When the teams are playing well, fans are happy, they show up, and everyone is suddenly a huge supporter. But here’s the rub: you’re a Bruin during bad times too. We’re so lucky that these times are few and far between, but they still happen. These are the times that make the special victorious moments so much more rewarding. I hail from the Bay Area, where every team (save the Sharks) is terrible at the moment. But we all still love our teams. Unfailingly. We can look back and say "Wow, I endured 13 years of diehard support to watch the Golden State Warriors make the playoffs ONCE." How else do you explain the fact that one of the most poorly run organizations in all of sports, who has made one playoff appearance since I was in 2nd grade (16 years ago), still routinely sells out games.
Bottom line: if you stick with the team, they will eventually make you happy.
Students, I understand that it’s finals week. Personally, I went to the UCLA Sweet 16 game against Pittsburgh in 2007 in San Jose, then drove down five hours AFTER the game (ended at 10 PM) to take a final at 8 AM the next morning. I caught a solid four hours of sleep that night for an analog circuits final (and somehow pulled off the A). So anything IS possible. But I’m not a total whack job -- finals are big, and I will not belittle their importance. Let’s be realistic here -- no one’s going to give you a job for being a big Bruin fan; they will give you a job for having good grades. I’m just going to say that you pick what is most important to you. One option does not necessarily need to preclude the other, you just have to plan and make careful decisions.
The thing is, I don’t remember a whole lot about analog circuits. I don’t deal with them anymore. I DO remember Arron Afflalo hitting a corner three against Kansas in an Elite Eight game just before halftime, just like I remember almost jumping off the second deck of the Oakland Coliseum while celebrating an improbable Luc Richard Mbah a Moute go-ahead layup and steal to secure the unbelievable UCLA victory over Gonzaga. I will never forget that moment of my life, and that is what makes sports great.
We all love sports for different reasons. But one thing I think everyone loves is the opportunity to see the unforeseen. If we had upset Kansas today, and you hadn’t been there but watched the whole thing on TV while studying, wouldn’t you have wished you’d been there?
When else in your life are you going to have an opportunity like this? Let me tell you, as a fresh graduate working the grind and going to graduate school on the side, the real world isn’t all that much fun. You’re not going to be able to get away with camping out in 60 degree weather, playing video games, eating pizza, and hanging with your friends.
Okay great, so hopefully you’re slightly more convinced (or maybe you just hate me) that it is indeed worth it to attend and expend every ounce of your being into cheering for UCLA. But I like to solve problems, and that doesn’t solve the overall problem – the apathy of those around you. What you can do to change this?
The great thing about sports watching sports live is the power of the crowd. No, not the crowd that is more concerned with doing the wave than watching the 3rd and 2 with 8 minutes to play in a 3 point game. It’s the crowd that buzzes and stirs, that tries to pull up its team during times of struggles or feeds its frenzy it’s on a run. Anyone who has played any type of sport can attest to this. Players draw energy from its crowd’s intensity. For a team predicated on defensive effort and hustle, as ours has for the past six years, energy and intensity are vital to our success. Don’t you miss the hard double team from Lorenzo Mata-Real or the unbelievably hedging from Alfred Aboya 25 feet away from the hoop? Well get loud, and maybe even Jerime Anderson can magically gain a modicum of lateral quickness! Okay, I realize that’s pushing it.
Do you know what my most memorable from 13-9 is? Not the McPick, or Pat "The Cowan" Gazelle galloping through the USC secondary. It came with six minutes left during a timeout. The whole crowd got hyped, with the thought of "Hey, maybe we can really do this!" Each team left its sideline and met at midfield, jawing, whooping, and hollering. There was a sense of magical energy in the air that I’d never (and haven’t since) experienced at the Rose Bowl. It was the type of moment that made you realize how special sports can be.
So yell, scream, jump up and down, and get loud. Not just at the start, not just when we’re on a run, but ALL game. Every possession matters, whether there is 10:30 left in the first half or 2:15 left in the second half, and whether we’re on a 7-0 run or they’re on a 7-0 run. The team can always use your help.
And Alumni! I haven’t been one for long, so I’m not going to make any rash judgments here, but I think we can improve too. Would it kill you to wear blue to the game? When UCLA gave out free UCLA t-shirts to the crowd a few years ago, I’d estimate 60% of the alumni completely disregarded their nicely color coordinated shirts. Can’t mess up the precious sweater-dress shirt combo I guess. And noise. Please. Noise is good (especially when we’re on defense). It doesn’t have to be the 35 seconds of yelling and jumping. It can just be clapping and encouraging our boys. And it’s okay to stretch those legs every once in a while. Stand up during those important situations. If you’re going to stretch during the timeout and halftime anyway, well you can get the blood flowing into the legs during the game too.
I understand that not everyone’s cut out to be hardcore all the time. That’s totally fine – do what you’ve gotta do. Enjoy the game in the way you please. Sports are for fun and entertainment, so treat your fandom with what makes you happy. They should not define your life (this has arguably been a recent revelation for me). But being a passionate fan can also be highly rewarding, and create some beautiful memories. I would not trade my UCLA sporting experience for any other – they truly are some of the most poignant highlights of my college days.
I apologize for this rant. Lay it on me if I’m screwing up here too, I am all for intelligent discourse. I also don’t know if I’m violating some form of etiquette by calling out everyone without saying anything before. I will now go study for MY finals before work tomorrow. Whether you agree or not, as always – GO BRUINS!!!