Did anyone watch ESPN's coverage of the last game at Yankee Stadium?
I caught a lot of it -- it was on after the late NFL games ended, but before the Cowboys-Packers game started. They did a whole ceremony on it, inviting many of the great Yankee players and even some of their spouses and heirs to the event. It was all very nostalgic and fun to watch -- like an Old Timers game.
But, I didn't cry or anything.
This morning I caught a couple of minutes of sports talk commentary during my morning commute and the host was sort of mocking how grown men were crying because a building was being torn down. I did get what he was saying.
Personally, I understand a bit of sadness at old Yankee Stadium being replaced and I also relate to the idea that many people are feeling a little melancholy today. I mean, I feel bad when a restaurant I've liked closes down -- our memories are linked to the places we've been.
That said, I definitely do not agree with those who are lamenting the end of old Yankee Stadium and agree with the morning sports host who bluntly noted that Yankee Stadium was outdated and a bit of a dump and other than the fact that it was Yankee Stadium, Yankee Stadium was actually a pretty unpleasant place to see a baseball game. (For the record, no one seems to care that the Mets' Shea Stadium is being torn down, too. It's a dump without the history.)
All of the above got me thinking about Pauley Pavilion.
Pauley Pavilion is the Yankee Stadium of college basketball. More championship teams played in Pauley than in any other venue. The two greatest players of all time -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) and Bill Walton -- played there and the greatest coach of all time -- John Wooden -- coached there. If Yankee Stadium was "The House that Ruth Built" then Pauley is "The House That Wooden Built."
Like Yankee Stadium, where Nelson Mandela spoke, where the New York Football Giants played, where a pope prayed is not just a baseball field, Pauley Pavilion is more than just a men's basketball arena. The women's team also earned a national title there, as have the men's and women's volleyball teams, and the women gymnasts. The Grateful Dead played Pauley Pavilion, as did Bob Dylan. Thousands of alumni were handed their diplomas inside the venerable old girl.
It's time for something new.
I think everyone agrees with me on that point,or almost everybody.
What I mean is, it's time for something new, even if Pauley Pavilion must be raised to make room. Pauley Pavilion is, like Yankee Stadium, just a big building made of cement and steel. It's not even grand like Yankee Stadium, there is no facade, there are no monuments or statues. It's just a square building with seats and a court. It is not, UCLA basketball.
UCLA basketball is Wooden, Alcindor and Walton. It's Goodrich and Wicks and Rowe and Hazzard and O'Bannon and Edney and Vandeweghe and Watson and MacLean and Miller. Now, it's Howland and Farmar and Afflalo and Luuuuc and Westbrook and Collison and Love. Soon, it will be Holiday and Morgan, then Lane and Honeycutt.
My feeling is that this program is the best and it deserves the best. UCLA Basketball should be played in a cathedral of sport, with the finest amenities and the most modern technology. I understand nostagia and if the new building contained a room or a display paying homage to Pauley Pavilion, I'm all for it.
But, like the New York Yankees, nostalgia should not stand in the way of progress. Whatever new building is erected would not only replace Pauley Pavilion, but instead its beauty and scope would stand in tribute to Pauley and all that came before.