I saw this was in the comments to the bonfire post left by Nestor, but, seriously, it deserves at least its own diary entry.
The bonfire exists as the only football pep rally UCLA holds during the course of the entire year. From what I can tell they don't hold Homecoming Week events at all anymore, with the ostensible reason that they want to save it all for "Blue and Gold Week" in the buildup to the Southern Cal game.
And since there isn't a Homecoming parade anymore (I may be wrong but if I haven't noticed it for the past several years, it would almost be sadder to learn that there is one) there is now a parade that leads into the bonfire rally.
I'll admit, I wasn't really in the parade mood, so I skipped that and went for a few beers at Maloney's instead in order to prepare for the rally.
The first bad sign was the number of people walking AWAY from where the bonfire was going to be held. We asked a couple girls what was going on, and they pointed us in the direction we knew we should be headed, and didn't respond to our question of why they were leaving.
Then we bumped into someone we knew, who said that since she hadn't had a chance to drink before hand, and she was bored by the band playing, she was leaving to go get drunk elsewhere. (I didn't see much of the band playing, but from what I did see they were very decent so I'm not dissing them.)
Awards were handed out for the parade for various things, and the MCs were trying to entertain from the stage. Pretty typical pep rally stuff, really.
They held a mini-cardshow from Janns Steps while holding a Bruin spell-out, which was actually pretty cool.
Geoff got up and led an 8-clap, which was (as always) fun.
I was having fun hanging out with the people around me, and the atmosphere was actually pretty good. I bought the newest version of the "a Trojan is only good once" t-shirt because I always buy a t-shirt from someone at the bonfire. But clearly this was all supposed to be building until later.
They announced that some coaches were coming out, and out walked Ed "Coach K" ("Towel Guy") and someone else whose name I didn't catch. (I'm sorry, this is nothing personal against him, I just didn't catch and didn't recognize the name. I know it wasn't either Svoboda or Walker.)
They led the crowd for a minute, and suddenly it was clear that the night was about to change for the worse.
Coach K told us to be proud of 3 things. One was that we go (in my case, went) to the best school in the country. Good deal, and I cheered for that.
I forget what the second thing was.
The third left me laughing because the only choice was complete disgust: "WE'RE GOING TO COMPETE ON SATURDAY!!!"
COMPETE??????? THIS IS THE BEST THEY CAN DO?????
As the team joined these two guys on stage, something else became obvious.
KARL DORRELL DID NOT SHOW UP FOR THE BONFIRE.
I can't remember any time this has been true. Maybe somebody else remembers better than me, but in this case, I find it atrocious. For a coach with a reputation for not having any passion for the football team to not show up for the only pep rally of the year is ridiculous. Here was his one chance before the game to prove that our feelings were wrong about him, and he doesn't even try to change our minds?
[I'm having sad flashbacks to a game about a year ago when the coach who should have been aggressive spotted USC many points while trying to play conservatively so as to not fall too far behind...]
A few players got up to speak, and none of them had the swagger of years past to say that they were going to come out to beat USC. I don't know if this is because they're being told to not sound cocky, but it was noticeable.
We were still there to support the team, so we were still cheering, but between the comment that we were there to compete, and the lack of courage on the part of Dorrell to even try to show that he was pumped for the game, we were already starting to feel a little like we weren't getting the (figurative) fire we were looking for.
Only one thing was going to save this.
And they said the fire was going to start soon.
They built it up.
Told us to get ready.
The lights went out.
And CONFETTI shot out of the middle of the bonfire.
And we were waiting for something else to happen, for the flames to shoot to the sky. They had told us that this fire was about to take off.
Well, they lied.
"This is a different kind of fire," or some other crap, came from the stage, with an excuse that the fire marshall had declared it unsafe to have a bonfire.
YOU'RE KIDDING ME.
If you're not going to have a bonfire, don't lie from the stage and say that the fire is about to happen, okay?
This was a perfect trifecta of disappointment, between no avowals of victory, no rousing speech by anyone we expected to coach the teams to victory, and then no bonfire at the, ahem, bonfire.
I lit my Zippo, held it above my head, and walked (okay, pushed my way) through the crowd toward the barricade (there to protect us from the confetti, apparently) saying I was going to go light the thing myself. The fact that I received some cheers for this is a little sad. The fact that there was a chant of "BULLS---" from the crowd was fitting.
I walked my way back down to BrewCo with my friends extremely upset, along with every other stranger I spoke to. Even the EMTs walking away told me they were as upset as I was.
The fact that I just received (while typing this loooong vent) an IM from a friend telling me that Pete Carroll led his bonfire (which actually consisted of flames and not confetti) is just insult added to injury.
I'm still going to be at the game on Saturday several hours early, but the drinking will be more out of necessity than out of confidence. This entire experience leaves me hoping for miracles instead of resolved in solidarity with the team.
Those of you who weren't there tonight should almost consider yourselves lucky, even if I'm glad I was there to witness it.
The only good news from the night, I will leave with. As I mentioned in my last diary, I have become convinced that Karl Dorrell is not the answer as a football coach. I was downplaying the fact that I call for him being fired every time anyone gives me half a reason to say so, because that would admit (as I am admitting now) that I was wrong to ever defend Karl Dorrell. And this has led to a series of arguments with my friend, who sits next to me at every football game.
His theory is that Karl Dorrell didn't show up tonight because he knows that his time at UCLA is running out, and this is coming from someone who hates to admit that Dorrell should be fired. "He knows he's a lame duck," says the only Dorrell supporter I talk to anymore. And even this friend of mine has already spotted a couple coaches he would prefer to the one we have right now who he thinks we might be able to hire in a wishful thinking sense. "What's Goerge Siefert up to nowadays?" "Have you seen much about the guy who coaches at TCU? He seems like he could be Howland-esque."
I know the actual lack of a fire at the bonfire isn't KD's fault, but not showing up, and letting the academic coordinator for the team lead the rally into a support of competing, leaves me sick.
It doesn't help that I was going to go back out tonight and now realize that I won't because of the time I've spent typing this.
I'm still praying for a victory in about 37 hours, but this is the worst I have felt about our chances after attending a pep rally in my entire life.
Please turn this whole experience into a footnote after a victory, and not one last sign that will show us with hindsight that we should have known better than to ever expect anything other than an eighth straight loss.