Bumped. They got to do lot more than just hang out with KL. GO BRUINS. -N
This post is in response to the request to learn a little more about what the band gets to see on NCAA trips and what kind of experiences we get to have. For NCAA trips, the band gets to take 29 players plus a director. Alot of who can go on these trips have to do with seniority and what instrument you play (eg: more trumpets are needed to go than clarinets), as well as who can go without conflicts for finals and spring break.
The trip started Friday morning. Our call time was a very early 6:15am. We had to be ready to leave with the team, as the band and team share a single charter plane in order to save the school some money. At 6:15, we have all of our instruments and luggage and load them onto a truck to take it to the airport, as well as receive our per diem that covers basic meals (anything like sight seeing or shopping would probably require using your own money). We then loaded 2 buses, one with the team, and one for the band, spirit squad, and a few high ranking UCLA officials, including Tracy Murray. Just like on mens NCAA trips i've been on, we had a police escort to take us to the airport, allowing us to go through red lights, and very spectacularly opening up the entire 405 freeway, so that there were no cars ahead of us to stop us from getting there as fast as possible.
The charter flights are always one of the more fun parts of the trip, when the band gets to fly on the same private flight with the team, getting the same special treatment in terms of special snacks and meals. Our buses actually drive straight onto the tarmac and we load the plane directly. Unlike mens trips where the band is supposed to be as inconspicuous as possible, the womens team was very friendly as we boarded the plane after them, especially seniors Allison Taka, and Erica Tuciainen who took pictures with us while Moniquee Alexander sat 2 rows ahead of where i was and chatted with the band before take off. An old band tradition used to be that whenever we were on a trip involving a flight, we would all do an 8 clap as the plane just leaves the ground. That tradition was ended a few years ago as it seemed to bother some of the officials or non-UCLA affiliated individuals on the flight who either want to sleep or work on business. That wasn't the case this time, as Moniquee lead the entire flight in the 8 clap.
When we arrived in Minneapolis, we checked into our hotel in downtown, the Radison, a very nice hotel. The band and spirit squad were on floors 9 and 10 while the team was on the 14th floor. After checking in, many of us in the band went out for dinner at a sports bar where we could watch some of the mens NCAA tournament games. Alot of evening meals are at locations where those who are 21 could have a drink if they desired, while those that weren't could still hang out. Later that night, we went glow-dark bowling at the gameworks near our hotel.
Saturday featured a trip to the Mall of America. It was very overwhelming how large the mall was, and it is amazing how fast time can go by without you even realizing it. Whether it was having lunch, wandering around, or buying gifts, there was a lot to see. The mall also featured a huge amusement park area with various thrill rides, which while overpriced, were very enjoyable and had the feeling of being in Disneyland in the mall. We learned that the team went there the night before for dinner and rides as part of team building.
Sunday alot of the band went different ways in smaller groups. I went to visit the Minnesota Minneapolis campus (since they have a Minneapolis and St. Paul campus), but was amazed that everything on a sunday was very dead and quiet, even though students would be coming back for the start of school the following day. Their campus is very beautiful with many impressive architectures, and the nearby dinkytown that would be akin to our Westwood. That night, we had to be back at the hotel ready to go at 6:15pm. We lined up just outside of the hotel and played the fights song as the team walked out and got onto their bus to the stadium.
We arrived to the stadium around halftime of the Nebraska-Northern Iowa game and got to watch that, before our game started, and we all know how that played out. After the game we returned to the hotel around 11:30pm. After changing, we went out to get pizza, and just as we were about to leave we saw the team bus arrive to the hotel, so we formed an impromptu tunnel for the team to walk through as we applauded them in, which was very fun, with all of the players and coaches giving us high-fives on their way back in.
With the victory, we had 2 more days to spend in Minneapolis. On Monday, the band once again split up into several different groups. Some went to the sculpture gardens, some went to the zoo, others just wandering around. my group went to lunch at a Brazilian BBQ restaurant, then the Museum of science in St. Paul. However, that night we all got back together at 7pm for the Minnesota Timberwolves vs Toronto Raptors game at the Target center. We wanted to go to support Kevin Love (and for those of us old enough to know him, Ryan Hollins). We knew the team was getting hooked up to go to the game thanks to Kevin. One of the members of the spirit squad negotiated us $50 seats for $10 each, as the Timberwolves have been having a poor season and i think they were just happy to have fans. Though the game itself was very boring, we did a roll call for both Kevin Love and Ryan Hollins, Booing Demar Derozan everytime he touched the ball, and apparently wound up being mentioned in both the ESPN game recap and on the UCLA athletics twitter for being in attendance.
Tuesday many of us went back to the Minnesota campus, as members of the Minnesota marching band took us out to lunch, and then a tour of their campus. We got to go into their band facilities which are actually inside of their new football stadium, and it blew us all away. Their band is funded as if they were the football team, as they had their own locker rooms for both men and women with lockers for uniforms and clothes to change, showers after games, restrooms, a huge room for everyone's instrument to be safely locked away, and many practice rooms and facilities. It really put what we have to shame, because our budget from athletics is very minuscule because bands just aren't as big of a deal as they are in the Big 10 and SEC where the crowd gets worked into a frenzy seeing the band, and it just amazed us the resources that they had. We also got to go into their hockey arena, their equivalent of Royce Hall, and their student union.
That night was the Nebraska game, and again we all know how that ended. After the game, we waited for the team to shower and do their post game interviews before heading off to the airport for our flight. Our flight took off at 1am. Understandably, most of the team was sad from the loss and tired due to the time of night and playing so hard, and many of them went straight to sleep. However, Moniquee Alexander and Allison Taka spent the entire flight talking to us about how much they love the band, how basketball has been for them, and then just life, music, movies, etc. Erica Tukiainen joined us midway through. It was honestly the most enjoyable 3 hour flight i've ever been on as we got to bond closer to those players, and Moniquee is one of the funniest people you'll ever meet in your life who tells it like it is and is constantly cracking jokes.
This was my last trip with the band after 5 years, and while i'm very sad for it to come to an end, it was an amazing trip to end with. I've been to 4 years of first and second rounds, a few regionals, and a final 4 with the band, and i still rank this as probably one of my 2 favorite trips just because of the different dynamics of what it is like to travel with the mens vs. the women. That is not meant as a knock on the men as we're not around to be all buddy buddy with, but when you make that connection with the team like many of us have made with this team, it makes this kind of trip that much more enjoyable.