So ends another football season and another calendar year, and I find that it's a bittersweet morning for a lot of different reasons.
New Year's Day is always a bittersweet time. The celebration of the end of an old year and the start of a new one always serves as a very tangible marker of the passage of time. And whether you are a (near) geezer like me, or a college student with the world wide open in front of you, or the age of my kids where just staying up to midnight brings its own intrinsic glory, that same stroke of midnight which occurs every other day of the year carries added significance on December 31. It is a tangible reminder that the past is gone. It is a time to take pride in the accomplishments of the year, but all of those things and places and people we looked forward to that still sit incomplete loom larger as missed opportunities on New Year's Day, and they add more pressure going forward that while time may last forever, those outstanding opportunities might not. And I'm not actually speaking only about the Rose Bowl game here, either. Well, that's part of it, of course. But even more, I'm thinking of kids and spouses and road bikes and guitars and friends and health and pets and jobs and school and the beach and the mountains and skis and travel and anything else that makes up those most important parts of our lives. So as we wake on the first day of 2014, let's resolve to take advantage of our time and make all our coming days less bitter and more sweet.
Writing on Bruins Nation is extra bittersweet today, too, because I spent most of New Year's Eve after our game putting together the Bruins Nation Awards posts (shameless plug: look for polls to go up today and tomorrow). In compiling the article, I looked at every fanpost and fanshot from 2013, and then reread most of them to help collect the best of the best. Doing it reminded me of how much we went through in 2013. The end of Howland's era and the coaching search and hire and that followed were undoubtedly the lowest moments of the year. The College World Series title, the beatdown of Southern Cal in football, and Women's soccer scoring #110 were absolute joys. The posts reminded me of Signing Day, petitions and letters to the Chancellor, a hotel in the center of school, the A.D,'s new contract, Mora's and Savage's new contracts, tailgates and road trips and game watch parties, uniforms, and Nick and Nebraska, and dozens of other moments that had slipped from memory. Most of all, it reminded me of how grateful I am to be part of this amazing community, and how much I want BN to be not just a voice, but THE voice of hope and unity and progress in the U.C.L.A. fanbase. BN has done some amazing things, but there are areas where we can still do better ourselves. So while I take great pride in what BN has produced and accomplished, I also know we could be so much more than we are. I sincerely appreciate every screen name that comes across this blog, and am grateful I've gotten to attach some real names along the way. I hope everyone feels not only welcome to contribute here, but that we can all create a place where everyone genuinely wants to contribute. Reading all those posts was amazing, and it also made me want many many more.
And since this post is about really football, today is terribly bittersweet as Bruin football fan. I really believe this was our best season since Cade McNown and company had us nationally relevant at the end of the last century. Ten and three is a really good record. Honestly, it's one game better than I thought we'd do this year, and unlike the fool's blue and gold of 2005, this ten win team felt legitimate. We were in every game this season and didn't deliver any dogs like Cal and Baylor the year before. There's something promising about being frustrated with 3 touchdown wins. We had marquee players elevating the status of the program. We played a tougher schedule and still came out with a better record. We totally stomped all over Southern Cal. We finished strong with a big win in our bowl game. Granted Virginia Tech has had better teams, but they've also played in bowl games for 21 straight years, so they are a great program with a classy and respected coach, and that makes yesterday's a really really good win. The bumps that slowed us this year were mostly our own, and those are things that are in our control to repair. Our team and the program got better this year, and on a certain level beyond stats and records, that's really what it's all about.
I found it particularly notable that as Coach Mora walked off the field yesterday after a dominating win to cap a ten win season, the first thing he talked about were his big picture goals. Mora said that we aren't to the promised land yet, but that we're going to get there. We all still have some legit concerns about our football team, and there are some seniors that I already miss, but it sure does look like U.C.L.A. football is steadily going in the right direction. I'm dreaming of the possibilities of our quarterback and left guard/tackle coming back for one more year. Mix in another great recruiting class with the incomparable experience our young players got this year and 2014 could have as much potential as any Bruin team I can ever remember, even more than 1988. So while I look back at the 2013 season, I am happy and satisfied with the progress and the accomplishments, and I am so hopeful and anxious for that to continue. Can't we play another football game instead of basketball next weekend?
(On a final personal note, thank you to all of you on BN for taking your time to read these morning after posts and for the kind words and valuable thoughts many of you have added. It's an honor getting to write in this space after every game, and I hope we've all been able to find some thoughtful and sincere middle ground between the too highs and too lows that are inherent with sports. In the end, it's about the four letters, the 8-Clap, and the words of Coach. Happy New Year and best wishes for 2014 to everyone. Go Bruins!)