It is Family Weekend at the University of Colorado.
But really, it was Family Day for me, courtesy of U.C.L.A.
Since Thursday and continuing through Sunday, the Buffs are hosting a number of events for families of current CU students including receptions, a golf tournament, campus tours, luncheons and dinners, classroom presentations, and of course, the football game. It is set up as a way for the university to connect with students and their families.
It turned out that Family Weekend wasn't just a CU event. Well, maybe not officially. But what Saturday turned into was a reminder of what a special gift I have with my family, and how much that family includes U.C.L.A.
One of the downsides of exile and work and family and the other routines of life is that I haven't gotten to see my Bruins in person since the last time the Bruins came to Boulder in 2002. There just hasn't been a good or opportune time for me to travel to Pasadena for a game. The Alumni Club here in Colorado closed down a while back, and until Bruins Nation opened up, it was hard to stay connected in a personal way. And even with BN, there are limitations in how close the internet can get you to something.
But yesterday, the personal connections to my days in Westwood were all over the place. It was really special yesterday to get back in touch in a more direct way with that family.
From a football standpoint, the game was fine. The best thing is that we won a conference game on the road, something we have only done three times in the last four years. It wasn't flashy. It was just steady and workmanlike. The defense was really good, giving up just one touchdown during the meaningful part of the game. The offense was steady and the only thing that slowed it down was itself, and that's something that we can control. This game was never anywhere near as close as the score was in the first half, and it wasn't subtle. I liked Mora's Spurrier-esque attitude throwing deep and running reverses in the 4th to put the game away. The CU fans started leaving near the end of the third quarter and the student section has empty early shortly after.
There were still too many dropped passes and unnecessary penalties and some breakdowns in the secondary. Those things need to get cleaned up going forward. It's hard to take away a whole lot because CU is really struggling right now. But we won big over a bad team, and that's what we needed to do. It was reassuring that this team is still heading the right direction.
There was something else very reassuring to me besides the win. Aside from the game, the most important part of the day came in the constant reminders of how lucky we are to be Bruins, and all the connections that came up that tied my family at home with my extended Bruin family, and why Saturday was really Family Day for U.C.L.A. and me.
Yesterday I spent the day with my son Andrew. My wife and daughter were heading south to see the U.S.A. girls gymnastics team in Colorado Springs, so it was boys day for the football game. Drew is 10 now and still enjoys days spent with just daddy. I'm grateful for that because the teenage years aren't too far off, and I know I can't count on things always being this way. He's already a big U.C.L.A. fan, so at least I've done something right so far. Our U.C.L.A. family weekend began with Drew appearing from my closet with an old mesh Bruin football jersey that I wore to games when I was in school. He decided he'd outgrown his old Bruin jersey and wanted to wear one of mine. It was quite a little blast to see him strutting around in that shirt.
That was the first special connection on the day between my family here at home and the greater Bruin family and heritage. And the connections through the day kept coming and coming.
We packed up and made it halfway to Boulder before I realized I left home without the tickets. I called home and luckily my wife was still there. With no complaints and no mockery, she hopped in the car and met me halfway, bringing the tickets, saving us almost an hour of travel time. So the girls weren't totally excluded from the U.C.L.A. events.
We made the trip to Boulder this time without further incident and parked on the edge of campus. CU is a beautiful school, and as we walked across it, Drew asked me a lot about how far I walked to get to classes at U.C.L.A. (miles, all uphill), and if our buildings looked similar to CU's (many do), and what it was like to live at a school (awesome), if we had a pond with ducks as CU does (nope), and as we walked past the basketball arena, if we were going to the game when the Bruins play here (absolutely).
After the long walk from the car, we got to the Bruin Bash pre-game party and found a courtyard full of people wearing Bruin Blue. We shortly found the a group of younger alums who we watch games with sometimes at one of the downtown restaraunts. They know Drew from watch parties last season and greeted him like one of the gang. Right off the bat, my family from home and the Bruin family were one.
As we were headed to get food, I saw Nick Ekbatani. We spoke for a short time and I thanked him for his inspiration and how proud he makes us to be Bruins. He was kind enough to take a photo with Drew, and afterward I took some time to tell Drew about how Nick's courage and character is truly admirable and that we can learn a lot from his example. I realized as we were talking that it sounded a lot like the way I tell Drew about Coach Wooden. More connections between my two families.
Right after this, I met Dave, one of our BN readers here. He came up to say hello, and we got to talking about BN and how important it is to us. His praise for this site was really flattering, and it reminded me of exactly the reasons that I first got hooked into BN, and how this site helps bring the Bruin family together. We then met up with the Kellys and were introduced to some of their friends who were at school the same time I was, so there were more connections back to Westwood.
Drew and I headed for the stadium and our seats, and climbing up into the stands felt like home. A whole section of Bruin blue, 8-claps, Bruin spellouts, UC-LA chants, cheering with strangers around you who are all bonded by virtue of wearing the same colors. Drew got a lot of compliments on his vocal support for the team from several of the Bruins sitting around us. Another tie between my families.
With the game well in hand, we went down to the field level with a minute remaining to line the path from the field to the Bruin locker room. Drew got to shake hands and give high fives (well, high for him, low for the players) as they joyfully left the field. David Allen, my new favorite Bruin, doubled back to give one of his gloves to my son and the other to a young kid next to him. So there was my boy getting a piece of the team to take home with him. (By the way, I don't see how anyone ever drops a pass with those things on!).
I was standing next to the mom of one of our players when her son came out of the locker room for some words of encouragement and a hug. It was another touching moment between between family members and between Bruins.
I recognized our hero Ralph Irvin and said hello and thanked him for the great work he does with his videos. He told me he lived in Florida for several years and how remembers how hard it was to get information and stay in touch with school. He says that he does his work with those days in mind. More connections.
Jim Mora was chatting with people outside the locker room door. Not our Jim Mora, but his dad. I pointed him out to Drew and he immediately stater chirping, "Playoffs? Playoffs?" I think I got him shushed before Mr Mora heard it. It was neat to see another father son connection happening in front of us.
And incredibly, I was actually about 8 feet from both Chris Foster and Chianti at the same time. I was behind a rope, so there was no approaching them, and anyway, there is a time and place, and that wasn't it. It didn't really fit with the family theme anyway.
On the long walk back to car Drew said how much fun the day was and that he thought the Bruins played pretty well. We talked about some of the highlights of the day: seeing our friends, meeting Nick, cheering the Bruins, receiving the glove, and the many others. Any of those events would have made a day. But the day was filled with moments like that. And it all came together because it was about U.C.L.A.
When Classof66 writes about his Bruin brothers and sisters, it isn't just an expression. There are degrees of connection among certain things in our lives, and for me, the connection to U.C.L.A. is as important as anything short of my family here. There is something different when it comes to the blue and gold. It is the link to best friends and incredible memories and a truly amazing and incomparable time in our our lives and our shared connection to the greatest University in the world. For me, there is really nothing that compares to my U.C.L.A. family, except for my own family - which is why the integration of the two yesterday was such a special moment.
Cherish these moments, Bruins. I don't get together with Bruins to relive Biology 167 or night shifts on Access Control. We get together to cheer on our teams. It's a bit more obvious to me, since days like yesterday haven't happened in 10 years, and will only happen every other year from now on. For those of you who can get to games in Pasadena or Westwood on a more regular basis, I hope you appreciate these kinds of days for how unique and amazing and valuable they are, and I'm glad it got a reminder yesterday. Or fifty reminders.
Shortly after Drew and I got home, the girls arrived from their day. We all sat down and watched the rest of The Avengers which we had started the night before, and my wife commented how nice it was that the family was together for the evening.
But I'd been with my family all day long.