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Burning Traditions

I think some of you guys already noted this in a FanShot few weeks ago (can’t seem to find the link) when the news first came out. If you didn’t know it already, apparently there is a bonfire in Westwood tonight, celebrating the “Blue and Gold week”. That would be the same “Blue and Gold week”, which used to be called the “Beat SC  week”, back when we were in school. The folks at didn’t take very kindly to that change, when it became in official in 2005.

So this year the school went another step further. Not only we are not having “blue and gold” week leading up to the SC game this year, we are having it mid season during home coming week featuring the Stanford Cardinal. The Daily Bruin explains:

Blue and Gold Week has brought Bruins a pride-filled week of car-smashing, USC-bashing and a Beat ’SC parade for the past five years.

But this year, the UCLA versus USC football game falls on the weekend before finals, and university policy is preventing students from activities that week.

“To ensure that Bruins can study and still have fun, Blue and Gold Week is now Oct. 13-19, preceding the Stanford Homecoming football game,” the UCLA Alumni Association Web site said.

This year, because the university prohibits amplified sound during 10th week, the festivities had to be rescheduled, said Aly Yarris, Student Alumni Association director of communications.

But Blue and Gold Week, which kicks off today with an 8-clap rally in the Wooden Center and a Cardinal Car Smash in Bruin Plaza, will still promote the pride and glory of life as a UCLA Bruin, Yarris said.

Sp if anyone is feeling all fired up about going to a bonfire for Stanford game, they can do it tonight around 11 pm at the IM field.

Well, this is just all kinds of weird. I can’t imagine anyone getting fired up for a “Cardinal Car Smash” in Westwood. No offense to Stanford. I have a lot of respect for what Jim Harbaugh has done up in Palo Alto and I do believe Bruins are going to have a tough game in which they might be the underdogs against a program getting settled in its second year under a very good head coach. But going up against Stanford will never generate the kind of passion the extended Bruin community has reserved for that last football game of the regular season.

Bon fire for the SC game has always been a tradition at UCLA. I wish the UCLA administration had some respect for that tradition.  I don’t understand how difficult it would have been for UCLA administration to make a little adjustment for this year’s finals week, just so that the students could take a break from their studying and celebrate the bonfire for the big game. Seriously I think UCLA students are bright enough to multi task and mange time efficicently working both studying for finals and taking a little break to get fired up for the biggest football game of the season. We have all been there. Tyus Edeny's 4.8 second magic happened on a Sunday before the Finals weeks got started and God knows how entire Westwood exploded following that drive.  I don't think taking few hour break to watch that game killed any Bruin's careers and no one was all that upset from all the celebration noise that gave everyone a little healthy (and euphoric) outlet from the stress of the final's week.

Part of the problem goes beyond UCLA administration. I get that lot of this is rooted in the arrangements from the BCS era, in which this game for TV/national exposure purposes is now scheduled in the same weekend in December with other high profile conference championship games. When I became a UCLA football fanatic back in the 80s,  I got used to the idea of the UCLA-USC game taking place on that last Saturday before Thanksgiving, the same weekend of Michigan-Ohio State game. Those were the days of classic Rivalry weekends, when the day would get started with Woody’s Ohio State and Bo’s Michigan would square off against each other at 9:30 am PST, and be followed by UCLA-USC at 12:30 pm PST. The winner of each game would meet in the Rose Bowl. I miss that.

Of course the whole week leading up that rivalry weekend would be something special. I remember my first bonfire well. November 1991. We all gathered at the bottom of the Janss Steps. About three thousand students were getting all fired up thanks to short pep talks of Matt Darby (who was part of an infamous exchange with Todd Marinovich in the game from the year before). I alluded to that story before over here on BN (during "Beat SC" week of course).  What I haven't shared from that experience though was about getting a little pep talk from some quarterback assistant coach (I didn’t know his name yet). All I can remember was him saying something about taking all of our anxieties about Saturday’s game and getting rid of all the negative/nervous energy through that bonfire. We hadn’t beaten the Trojans in 4 years. I never knew an assistant coach could get the students and the entire team so fired up. The whole quad thundered in eight clap and you know what SC chant. It was electric. The following Saturday Bruins went on to snap a 4 game winless streak at the Mausoleum. That memory has been etched in my Bruin psyche for rest of my life time.

I just wish some other Bruin freshmen had the same experience this year during “Beat SC” week to listen to that QB assistant coach. He is of course now the UCLA head football coach.  Oh well. It's a huge bummer. 

Anyway, hopefully CRN and his team will make the best out of this weird situation. I am sure he will have the team fired up this week.   I imagine if he is there tonight at the bonfire, he will have the homecoming crowd all revved up for what is still a huge game against a very good Stanford team. We will keep the focus on Stanford and think about that last regular season game when that week arrives, however there is something to be said about preserving traditions that are big part of this extended Bruin Nation. We wish the UCLA administration had put some thought into it before deciding it to burn another one during this home coming week.