As an out of state applicant to UCLA, one of the happiest days of my life was going to the mailbox the day the letter came, on an otherwise quiet day. It was thick. I knew it was too thick to be a rejection letter the moment I held it in my hand. For a kid in Orlando, surrounded by friends going to the "usual" places; FSU, UF, Central Florida, I was elated. I went to the mall (no online shopping in 1989) and got a UCLA hat & shirt. I wore that to school each week until I graduated to celebrate my acceptance to one of the finest universities in this country. Just before I entered dorm life at Hedrick Hall (in a triple, no less), I got another envelope in the mail. It was my packet of season tickets to UCLA football.
My first trip to the Rose Bowl was with my dad, who had driven cross-country with me. We lost to Tennessee that night, but I went to every game that year, enduring a 3-7 season before I got on the spirit bus to head to the
Coliseum Mausoleum. Most of my friends didn't want to make the trip. We stunk. We knew it. The University of Scholastic Compromise was headed to the Rose Bowl. Again. A sign on the 'SC bus read "U Clowns Lose Again." But high in the ozone in the upper corner of the peristyle end of the Coliseum, we didn't care. We bled blue & gold and watched as our guys fought. Fought for 60 G-D minutes and game themselves a chance to win... a 50+ yard FG attempt to send Troy into ignominious defeat. That ball looked true, and 90,000+ fans were silent as we watched it sail through the air, only to hit the crossbar. Thud.
Deflated, I got back on the spirit bus and headed back to
modern civilzation Westwood. We were bummed, but our guys played like a bowl team that day, not a 3-7 team that had lost to Tennessee, Michigan, and half our Conference.
So what? This isn't a post about my times at a UCLA football game. But these, these are the memories that keep us coming back to support the four letters. Since I graduated, I have moved to Colorado, far away from the warm sidewalks of Westwood. Most of the locals could care less about California, or UCLA. But I still have friends from those times, and new friends online here. And I'll tell you something. We don't go online at BN to discuss that awful TA from English 3, or how the seismic retrofitting of the dorms in 1988-1992 really screwed up our lives (who had to "switch sides" in Rieber or Hedrick?). No, we don't talk about the wind in the breezeway at Young Hall, whether Coop Pizza was a carcinogen, or any of those things.
We get excited when we discuss UCLA sports.
Because when it's all said and done, whether you went to all the games or just one, when you've moved out on your own you want to point to that nationally televised game and say "that's my alma mater." We pull out the sweatshirts on Saturday afternoons and wear those four letters as proudly or more as we ever did while we were enrolled. You want to watch our men and women compete and say "hell yeah, I'm a BRUIN!"
Whether you think athletics is important to you now is for you to decide. But the current regime is not only destroying the credibility of our current program and embarrassing our students, they are stomping on the souls of all of us who were proud to look up at Royce Hall at night and say "I'm part of something special." A Bruin should never be ashamed of the public face of their university.
I don't need to point out the failings of our Athletic Director and those who he has hired. But twenty years from now, when you look back on it, you want to do so with pride. You want to wear those four letters and know they mean more than just a good education, parties, and all-nighters. We should never have to make excuses for attending a world-class university. We are Bruins, and we deserve a tradition that is shaped every day, not just by the memories of the "good old days."
Make your voices heard!