This fanpost is a follow-up to Preserving Traditions, a post in which I tried to have a little sophomoric fun about a subject that, in truth, affected me in a vaguely nauseating way. The subject of this previous post was the replacement of the iconic, block-letter UCLA circle in the new Pauley.
Today's post started out to be more of the sarcastic same. In that the Morgan Center keeps tripping over itself, causing much consternation, frustration, and embarrassment across the Bruins nation, I was going to offer some helpful marketing tips to Dan and company.
We know that the Morgan Center likes posters and sandwich boards. So, I was going to contribute to their marketing efforts in a helpful way, suggesting some potential sandwich boards that the Morgan Center might want to try. All suggestions were to be in keeping with the Morgan Center's demonstrated attitudes about UCLA traditions, and all were to be submitted in the spirit of helpfulness. Well, sarcastic helpfulness, anyway. Just trying to lend a hand.
But then, a funny thing happened on board the last train to snarkville. I got angry. On revisiting issues regarding Pauley Pavilion's center-court logo and UCLA football stripes, I found the topics getting less and less funny as I wrote. What got to me, what took all the fun out of my sniping, were the photos that I had collected for my planned ridicule. Real photos of past great Bruin teams and players. I'll explain what bugged me when looking at the photos a bit later. For now, suffice to say that I couldn't just complete the snark and let it go at that. I had to get some things off my chest.
As a result, this post will be both sarcastic and serious. I need to vent. And, the target of my sober venting, the Morgan Center, deserves every bit of my acrimony, in my humble opinion. Why am I so worked up? I am disturbed by the shoddy treatment that these proud UCLA symbols have received from our athletic leaders. The Morgan Center's handling of them bothers me. A lot.
But, first, some fun. Here are a series of four potential sandwich boards, front and back, which I make available for the Morgan Center to use in upcoming promotions. The theme is the Morgan Center's claimed dedication to preserving tradition. I present these sandwich boards, free of charge, out of the goodness of my heart.
[Left to right, top to bottom, UCLA championship teams of 1966-1967, 1967-1968, 1968-1969, 1969-1970 ]
[Left to right, top to bottom, UCLA championship teams of 1971-1972, 1972-1973, 1974-1975, 1994-1995]
[Left to right, top to bottom, Troy Aikman, Cade McNown]
[Left to right, top to bottom, Deshaun Foster, Gaston Green, Skip Hicks, Rick Neuheisel, Gary Beban]
OK, now for the serious part. I do not think that Pauley center-court logos and football shoulder stripes are the most important issues facing UCLA today. I know that many people are happy with, at least, the new basketball center-court logo. I think nothing ill of people who want that symbol in the new Pauley, nor do I look down on those who just want something new. I have found a personal, if resigned, peace regarding these and other issues. My serenity comes, at least in part, because of my low expectations that the current athletic administration will finally see the light and begin to lead effectively, but that's just me.
What really ruffles my fur about this subject, though, what prevents me from completing this post in purely humorous, if sarcastic, vein, is the dismissive and cavalier treatment that Dan and his minions have given to our historic UCLA symbols. Decades of proud history? Let's change it. Incredible runs of greatness? Let's give 'em a new look. Amazing athletes making amazing plays with a traditional look? How passé. It's time for change.
Just take a minute and look at the photos of Coach Wooden and Coach Harrick's championship teams gathered around the block-letter UCLA circle. Don't just glance at the pictures. Take them in. Look at each player. Consider the run of games that it took for those very players to be in that very spot, on that very circle, at that very moment, celebrating a national championship, and celebrating having been a part of mind-boggling greatness. And, even more important, having learned, not only inciteful basketball knowledge, but also lifelong lessons, from a great man, a great teacher, a wonderfully kind, selfless, and incredibly principled man.
Look at Coach. Think of the lessons that young John learned from his dad, Joshua. Think of Joshua's seven-point creed, pearls of homespun wisdom bestowed on a bright, loving, good-hearted child who would adopt and run with this starter set of principles like very, very few ever have.
Think about those same life's lessons passed on, and added to, by Coach to everyone with whom he came in contact. Notably, assistant coaches, players, and even, indirectly, to fans. Like me.
Think about the assistants. Jerry Norman. Gary Cunningham. Denny Crum. They, too, had traveled a long and often difficult past to reach that circle. For many players and assistants alike, that circle would be a launching pad from which they would find great success in later career and in later life.
Seven straight championships. Ten championships in twelve years. An eleventh championship twenty years later.
Think of all the players who competed by running back and forth across that circle. Lew Alcindor throwing a baseball pass to a streaking Lucius Allen. Mike Warren, crossing mid-court and making his Coach proud with a beautiful bounce pass to a wide open Lynn Shackleford on the wing. Recall the breath-taking outlet passes from Bill Walton, beginning with an "It's mine!" defensive rebound and becoming an offensive pass while he was still in the air, hitting in stride teammates who, just a fraction of a second earlier, were playing defense. See UCLA's full-court press, so beautifully coordinated and shown to future Bruins by Keith Erickson in earlier venues, hound guards and forwards into turnovers on both sides of the circle. Watch Curtis Rowe and Sidney Wicks leap high to snare rebounds, and then race each other across the circle to the basket on the far end for a soft lay-in.
Steve Patterson. Marques Johnson. Ed O'Bannon. Keith Wilkes. Tyus Edney. David Myers. The list of great players who added their own gloss to the famed UCLA circle goes on and on and on. Great Bruins, all. Great Bruins, who painted their masterpieces on and around the canvas of the UCLA circle. Full-court presses. Steals. Fast breaks. Beautiful ballet.
While you're at it, think of other Bruin athletes who played on and celebrated championships at the UCLA circle. Volleyball. Gymnastics. Basketball. Men. Women. Al Scates. Karch Kiraly. Ann Meyers. Tim Daggett, Mitch Gaylord, Peter Vidmar.
Now, let's leave the circle and move on to football. Look at the pictures of Gaston Green and Deshaun Foster and Skip Hicks and Rick Neuheisel and Gary Beban. Take in the snapshots of Troy Aikman and Cade McNown. Think of their teammates. See Wendell Tyler stopping and shifing in blinks, starting again in bursts, and leaving befuddled defenders grasping at air. See Theotis Brown, lowering his head and powering over linebackers and safeties alike. See Gary Beban, launching bold, perfect spirals to Dick Witcher and Kurt Altenberg, snatching victory from certain defeat against a cross-town rival.
See Cade McNown, running with devil-may-care desire and forcefulness, and willing his team to another victory. See upstart John Barnes sucking the air out of his coaches' lungs and daring to throw a downfield pass from his own goal line. See J. J. Stokes gather in the pass and juke and jive defenders all the way to the end zone. See Kevin Nelson, Mel Farr, John Sciarra, Danny Farmer. See Don Rogers and Kenny Easley and Carnell Lake. Picture Randy Cross and Jonathon Ogden. Remember John Lee and Willie Anderson and James Washington.
Think of the coaches. Harken back to a brilliant Red Sanders, unleashing his efficient and scary (to opponents) single-wing attack, an attack that some credit as ancestor to today's spread. Whether it was a forerunner of the spread, or not, it surely worked at the time.
Hear Tommy Prothro's Southern drawl, telling his obviously nervous young quarterback whose team was about to face the mighty, number-one-in-the-country Michigan State Spartans in the Rose Bowl that there were two billion people in China who didn't give a damn about the game that day, so what's there to be nervous about? Watch Homer Smith wave wands of offensive magic, mixing straight-up smash-mouth violence with what-are-they-gonna-do-now daring. Think of the many gratifying victories over sc. Think of the many warm New Year's days spent, by Bruins all around the globe, savoring another Rose Bowl victory.
What do all these football memories have in common? They were all done by players wearing, dare I say it, traditional UCLA stripes. Big, bold, full, beautiful UCLA stripes.
But, for some contorted reason that I cannot pretend to understand, both of these iconic symbols must now be replaced. Proud tradition? Pshaw. Let's have a new look. Past glory? Never mind. Let's start over. Record-breaking performances? Whatever. You need freshness to attract today's youth.
The circle has been and remains a symbol of indoor UCLA athletic excellence for all Bruins since Pauley's first day of existence. The classic block letters and stars are so familiar to college basketball fans that the circle has come, in many ways, to symbolize college basketball.
The stripes have not only been symbols of UCLA football ever since they were introduced by one Red Sanders, they are named for UCLA, for crying out loud. As it turns out, Red Sanders knew more about football uniform design than the geniuses at Adidas and the Morgan Center, combined. The laughable stripe stubs that adorn today's UCLA jerseys are shameful mockeries of proud UCLA tradition.
So, tell me, dear Morgan Center. The stripes and the circle were good enough for all of the great players and for all of the great coaches mentioned above, and, for that matter, for all of us fans and alumni, as well. Why are they not good enough for you?