I'm going to admit something that is not easy to do.
I lost my job in the 2008 economic collapse.
OK, right about now I've confused many of you who read the headline, and the first two sentences, and were ready to hear me admit I have an unhealthy obsession with sports. I might still, but we have a lot of ground to cover.
The last seven days have been really hard for anyone who truly cares about UCLA Athletics. Friday, the UCLA Men's Basketball team was embarrassed by the LMU Lions at home. To make matters worse, Josh Smith increased our humiliation by insulting the integrity of the very men that beat us fair and square. Saturday, the UCLA Football team was demolished by the Utah Utes, in what has become a form of predictable and routine form of ignomy. Yesterday we learned Reeves Nelson is unhappy and talking about leaving the team. According to reports, Ben Howland has granted his wish and suspended him from the team.
It really makes me wonder why I even bother caring.
Well, in January of 2008 I was working a boring, comfortable corporate job in broadcast television when I was let go. It was particularly painful because we had just wrapped up a two year run for a live television show I was a part of. We were led to believe the show was going to be reconcieved and brought back after a short hiatus. And, just like that, it was over. Luckily and by the grace of God, 6 months later I heard from a guy I used to work with about some work at the NFL Network and I jumped at the chance. In many ways, I was one of the lucky ones. A year later, the entire department was l laid off.
Having work when so many others have had a much harder time landing on their feet has made me really appreciate the opportunity to do something that once 'sucked the very life' out of me. It is amazing to me how the simple things I used to complain about at my old job, I do without a second thought these days, because I know it puts food on my table. Maybe I was like today's athletes, complacent and entitled. Well, all it takes is the specter of losing that thing to make you really re-examine and in turn appreciate it. I hear guys at work that complain about the things I used to complain about, and I can only shake my head.
We know the frauds at the Morgan Center perceive us as unreasonable fanatics who have lost touch with reality. In fact, one fellow Bruin and signer of the SFatPauley petition had this to say when I launched the current petition to Fire Dan Guerrero.
Please remove me from this list and find something more productive to do with your time. We have huge needs in the community and this is how you squander your time?
He's right of course, there are huge needs everywhere else. I'm disgusted too, but with different people and for different reasons. I'm looking at you, Dan.
What does one have to do with the other? I am eternally grateful, and I cannot emphasize that enough, for the sports fans that obsess over their teams, play fantasy football, and seek out every tidbit of information between Sundays which in turn allows me to have a job. There you have it. I am being selfish. There are entire industries that survive off the passion of sports fans. When I worked on that silly little show, we were eternally grateful for our fans. They made it possible for us to not only work. It allowed us to do something we loved, and get paid to do it. Occasionally, someone like Adele will take her talent, and sky rocket onto the world's stage. She will be able to live a life most of us can only dream of, because people will flock to her music. And, music like sports is a luxury we do not need. Academics might tell you that all we need is food, water, shelter and clothing. But, prisoners all over the world have these things, and they are not happy. It would be a poor world if we only had food for sustenance, but no delicacies. It would be a poor world if we all wore the same garments, in the same color and we never deviated from that standard.
I go back to that email and I ask myself, "Are there more important things in life?" Absolutely. But, that does not take away from the importance of this issue. My high school football coach used to say "I can pick up any newspaper and read all about everything that is wrong with mankind. But, I can turn to the sports page and read about all that is right with man." He was talking about the peak performances in sports. When a man or woman breaks some new performance record, the entire human race is lifted. Breaking the 5 minute mile barrier was very important for the human race as a whole. Sports Matters.
Taking a look at sports through this economic filter only underscores the importance of Morgan Center's failure to produce, promote and protect the UCLA brand. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that every dollar is wisely spent, and gives us the largest possible return on our investment. Now more than ever we have to take a harder look at every member of our athletic department and ask if they are getting the job done. And, as unpleasant as it may seem, now more than ever, we need to cull from the herd all those who are not getting the job done. Dan Guerrero, Rick Neuheisel, and Ben Howland may be the most visible lightning rods of our unhappiness; but if we truly want to maximize the revenue generated by our two largest sports programs, we will have to dig much much deeper and make some painful cuts.
Dan, I'd like you to step into my office.