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The Morning After, Part 9: Arizona State

More psychology.   On the Morning After the San Jose State game, I wrote about learned helplessness and how it explained the pitiful state of fatalism within the Bruin fan base.  Another favorite psychological concept of mine is cognitive dissonance, which coincidentally was mentioned in a comment on BN earlier this week.  While it may not have the same fascinating experimental demonstration as learned helplessness (and yes, reconize, science shouldn't shock dogs), it's clear that it still a powerful force in the behavioral universe.  All these years later, and Dr Grijalva and Psych 10 are still driving the world.  Who knew that I could have quit school after that first fall quarter and still had it all figured out?

The clasic example of cognitive disonance is the fable of the fox and the grapes, and it's pretty simple.  Fox (not Fox71) wants grapes.  Fox can't reach grapes.  Fox is conflicted because he wants something he cannot attain and this makes him feel bad.  So to resolve this, he decides the grapes are probably sour and that he wouldn't want them anyway.  Fox feels better about himself after reaching this conclusion and resolves his own dissonance. 

Dissonance is that inner conflict when how we feel differs from what reality gives us.  It is stressful to our psyche, and rationalization and justification relieves that stress.  Another example of cognitive dissonance is how I felt when I saw Nestor giving props to Ethical Pat and Lame here on BN this week.  After I woke up on the floor and got back into my chair, checked the calendar to orient myself, and made sure I was still located on Planet Earth, I simply assumed that N had been kidnapped by agents from the Morgan Center and forced to write that fanpost in an effort to discredit BN.  This seemed as likely an explanation as any, and then I stopped shaking and I felt much better and life went on. 

Cognitive dissonance also explains why I claim that I wouldn't want to deal with LA traffic anymore, or that being a rock star isn't worth having all those calluses on my fingers from playing guitar every day, or why I am pretty convinced that Salma Hayek is really a man.

And cognitive dissonance is alive and well in Bruins Nation following last night's win.

The Bruin fan base is definitely conflicted.  Just look at how contentious the arguments in the post game thread last night became.  While almost everyone was happy that we won, there was a lot of disagreement over the context of this win.  Some were minimizing it, some were overhyping it, some were just happy to have it no matter what, and some are using it to obviate the past.  The fact that the Bruin fan base is arguing amongst itself, after a win no less, is pretty telling, and also totally unsurprising.  That right there tells you a lot about the state of our football program.  Ah, the dysfunctionality surrounding U.C.L.A. football continues even in victory. 

Fortunately for everyone, I am here to relieve your anguish by providing all the correct answers and bring you a clear understanding of the present, a look at our history, and a pathway overall inner peace.  Ommmmm

Or maybe it's just how I'm resolving my own dissonance.  You can decide.

After the Arizona embarassment, BruinsNation (which includes me) posted a front page article calling for the immediate firing of Rick Neuheisel and Dan Guerrero.  After extensive and thoughtful documentation, which originally began back to the Karl Dorrell era, we concluded that the failure of the football program lay in the diseased culture of mediocrity which has been perpetuated by the Athletic Director over a decade, and by the inadequate job of coaching on the part of our Head Coach and members of his staff over the last 3+ years.  Our decision was based on previously published criteria which the football leadership failed to meet.  We drew a definitive line in the sand and this regime crossed it with the performance in Tucson.  But while Arizona was the final straw, there was already a mountain of problems present.  It was on that mountain that we based our decision, and when we made our statement, we all knew  that the possibility of winning out still existed.  And almost everyone agreed with us at that time - maybe not with respect to the timing, but certainly with the action that was needed.

Then a funny thing happened.  After that article, we won the next two games. 

Now, the first thing I thought of is that we should have written that piece before the season and maybe we'd be undefeated.  But I had to reject that idea because I'd hate to be karmically responsible for any of our difficulties.  It's similar to how I'm sure it's purely coincidence that we last won a Rose Bowl on Jan 1 1986, and since I enrolled that fall we haven't won one since.  There's no way that can be my fault, right? 

Let me begin by saying that I was really happy with last night's win.  It was a thrilling finish, especially dodging the bullet with our late turnover and their missed FG, followed by our late TD drive, and finally capped by the insane forward lateral/penalty with time runoff/traded for a time out/reversed under review/we're sorry you can have everything back weirdness in ASU's last drive.  When their last kick thudded short and right, both my kids jumped on my back and we danced around the living room.  That was certainly our best win of the year, considering the opponent and the gravity of the game.  It showed a lot of character that the team didn't quit after the Arizona embarassment.  It showed there have been some improvements in both the defense and offense in terms of scheme and personnel and execution.  For these things, the players and even the coaches deserve credit.

But if you think Rick should stay based on one win last night, then by the same logic you have to say Rick should have gone after one loss like Arizona.  And that kind of flip flopping seems like it would create an awful lot of dissonance.

Last night was one game.  And while it is fine and appropriate to celebrate a victory, that one game has to be taken in context.  Beyond last night's win, there was still Arizona 2 weeks ago.  And there was still Texas this year.  And there were still San Jose and Wazzu.  And Stanford the last 2 years.  And BYU and Arizona and Cal and ASU 3 years ago.  And Oregon and Arizona and Cal and 2 years ago.  And  Cal and Oregon and Washington and ASU last year.  And there was *Sc every year.  How many wins like last night do we have to balance those losses? 

Any call to save Neuehisel based on one game is contrasted with our call to replace Neuheisel based now on 46 games and bad assistant hires and bad schemes and poor development and poor personnel choices and a play-not-to-lose mentality, all of which have contributed not only to this team failing miserably to reach its potential year after year, but which has led to multiple incredibly embarrassing moments and to the football program's worst 4 year span since the 1940's.  It would be crazy to forget all of that for a victory over an ASU team can be as bad (Illinois) as it can be good (*$c). Simply put, this wasn't Oregon or Stanford last night, and ASU itself knows that

Similarly, our call to replace Guerrero is based on nearly 10 years of malaise and apathy and tolerance of mediocrity that permeates the upper levels of our University.  This was notably demonstrated by our Chancellor pathetically responding to multiple alums' honest concerns about football by disregarding them and instead leading an 8 Clap for beating Cal.  This mindset is what is killing U.C.L.A. football.  We want better.  Until this mindset is changed, the overall direction of our football program will not.  And that is a gigantic screw to the players who are dedicating their heart and souls to the team, to the students who need to be part of the University's tradition and spirit, and to the alums and fans who simply want to see U.C.L.A. return to competitive greatness. 

The arguments last night got pretty contentious.  There was a lot of criticism of the people celebrating the win and defending Neu last night.  And those Neubs were awfully critical of anyone still reminding the community of the ongoing problems with football.  How do we reconcile these seemingly opposing camps with contradicting positions?  How do we resolve this dissonance within our own minds and across our own ranks?  

Good news, Bruins.  The solution to everyone's dissonance this morning is simply that we CAN have it both ways.  This was we a win we can celebrate.  And we can still demand a change of the people in charge of our athletic department and our football program.  We can be happy for winning last night, and we can continue to hope we win next week in Salt Lake.  At the same time, we can hope that Guerrero and Neuheisel are ushered out in the near future and that better leaders and teachers are brought in in their places.  I don't feel in the least bit guilty combining the two ideas.  The ideas are not mutually exclusive, and there is no logical disconnect.  In fact, the two ideas are both necessary as a Bruin fan.  I want what is best for the team today, and what is best for the program in the long run.   Is there anyone who doesn't want that? 

Some people are stuck on the idea that if this team keeps winning that we shouldn't fire Neuheisel.  I think that's awfully narrow minded.  I have made up my mind on Neuheisel based on his 3+ seasons in Westwood, and based on standards for U.C.L.A. Athletics that any self-respecting Bruin should share.  Still, why should that make me any less anxious to win every week?  Heck, I'd love to see Rick go out of this program a winner. See?  No dissonance here.  My mind is at peace.

Well, at peace until people keep pushing all the "What If?" scenarios, anyway.  What If Neu does this or What if the team does that?  My answer is going to be the same.  Look at the record.  Look at the results.  Look at the pathway this team has travelled.  Is that good enough for U.C.L.A. football?  I think not.  A couple wins in the last 2 weeks doesn't erase that.  Beating *$c this year doesn't change that.  Getting to the Pac-12 Championship game doesn't change any of that.  Getting to and winning a Rose Bowl? 

Well, that's a degree of dissonance that I certainly hope I have to deal with.