Other than both golf teams (come on men--win it all in Stillwater) and some highlights by both of our basketball teams and baseball (the last Pac-10 champion) and women's gymnastics and softball and men's soccer and tennis, this has been an unsatisfying mediocre year for an athletic program that trumpets the motto, "Champions Made Here." Some programs have absolutely tanked (football).
Much has been written on this blog about why. Blame, fault, obloquy, and responsibility have been assigned, allotted, and levied on everybody from UCLA chancellors, coaches, DG, students, alumni, journalists, players, cheerleaders and that utter Morgan Center knucklehead who was quoted in that fraudulent press release who claimed the students wanted to move to some lousy seats in Pauley. (I refuse to say the name of that bureaucrat so as not to dishonor J. D. Morgan anymore than I will say Mr. Aikman's first name so as not to dishonor his parents for mistakenly selecting such an opprobrious moniker for a great Bruin.) So far, only the band has escaped an extensive written flogging.
If you use a pie chart, a slice of the blame would likely be properly assessed to a lot of the participants. You can imagine an odd looking pie chart where coaching would receive 22.396% of the blame while PAC 10 through 12 officials get 1.569% of the responsibility. Some would just slap together a pie chart with Dan Guerrero's mug on it.
But today's New York Times has a sidebar, written by columnist William C. Rhoden, on why the Mets, the U.C.L.A. football team of Major League Baseball, have sputtered over the past half decade; i.e. lost a lot of games. The lead article discusses the impending potential sale of the Mets to hedge fund manager David Einhorn. The sidebar includes Mets' management's criticism of several highly paid players' failure to get the job done. My take on the Times sidebar though is that it has more to do with much of U.C.L.A. athletics than it does with the sale of the Mets. The sidebar places the blame for the Mets' unrelenting mediocrity on the team's failure to have the spirit of one of the greatest Bruins of all time. That after the jump.
Mr. Rhoden writes:
If the Mets had a Jackie Robinson — fiery, indignant, burning with the will to win — the team would not be embroiled in a war of words over a highly paid but underperforming baseball team. If there were a Jackie Robinson on the Mets, [current owner Fred] Wilpon would not have had to call out his team — Robinson would already have done it. A leader like Robinson would not have tolerated the sort of passionless performances that have been on display at Shea and now at Citi Field during a five-year stretch of fizzles and collapses.
Alas, there is no Jackie Robinson spirit dwelling within these Mets.
The same is true in Westwood. Without Jackie Robinson's spirit, we go nowhere. With it, there is nowhere we cannot go. I am not in the locker rooms or on the practice courts or fields, but to me, some of our teams just do not have Jackie Robinson's spirit.