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The Morning After, Part 8: Colorado

Another gut wrenching win by UCLA over a seemingly overmatched Colorado. Do you ever wonder why we keep putting ourselves through this emotional wringer? It's the high.

Because the high is worth all the pain in getting there.
Because the high is worth all the pain in getting there.
Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

In my work, I see heroin addicts with some frequency.

Heroin abuse tends to earn someone repeat visits to the ER, so we come to recognize them or sometimes get to know them by name - at least until they stop coming back, which means either they got sober, or not.

Truthfully, the heroin addicts are actually pretty nice people more often than not. Not like the meth addicts. Those guys are really tough to like. But the heroin users tend to be pretty mellow and pleasant and even sometimes grateful, not only when they're high but even if they're in withdrawal from lack of access or if they just got an reversal agent that aborts their high, either of which looks like a really uncomfortable experience. And besides the misery of narcotic withdrawal, there's the expense of acquiring the drug, there are the frequent shooter's abscess, there is the occasional accidental overdose, and there's the very high risk for contracting Hepatitis C and HIV, endocarditis, bacteremia and septic emboli, and occasional sepsis and death.

The costs of heroin addiction don't seem very attractive to me. So I always marvel over what it is that makes such seemingly pleasant people become slaves to their horrible habit. With all the costs, you'd think they'd just say NO!

Actually, I think we all can relate a bit.

It's hard to be a fan.

There is a lot of time and expense and energy, both physical and emotional, that goes in to being a fan. Going to a game can turn into an all day affair if it's in your town, never mind if you travel to an out of town game. Tickets are never cheap. The price for food and drinks at sports venues is insane. And the stress. Standing and yelling, cheering and booing. Asking yourself just WTF the SPTRs are seeing. Having your mood sway with the events on the field, or rink or pitch or court or wherever, while having no tangible control over those events can make one feel a bit helpless, and that's an uncomfortable feeling for most anyone.

And it's really really hard to be a fan if you invest even more time and thought reading stories about your favorite team in the papers or on the net (like at the best UCLA blog on the net right here, or listening to interviews with the coaches and players, or god forbid you spend time reading or writing on a blog that follows that team. Now you're actually using your cognitive processes to evaluate the team and that requires even more emotional and physical energy, especially when you start to see some of the reasons that are making everything so difficult to begin with.

For all of us here on BN, and all of the Bruins in the stands at Folsom Field, and all of the fans who took time from their early Saturday to turn on the TV or the radio to follow the U.C.L.A. football team invested something of ourselves. We all paid something in time or money or energy - or all of the above - to be fans of our team.

Fan is short for fanatic, and being a fanatic is hard work. It's not always fun. And sometimes I ask myself why I do it. Is it really worth it?

Personally, life would be easier in many ways if I just didn't care so much.  Cheaper, calmer, saner. No frustration or disappointment. Living and dying with your team implies that some of those times are dying. We all have any number of things - jobs, bills, health, family - pulling us in different directions. Wouldn't it just be simpler if we jettisoned something like sports which, unlike jobs and bills and such, is in many ways expendable, and just eliminated the costs of time and money and energy.

But then at the end of the game on Saturday, there it was.

It was interesting week for this particular fan.

Last Sunday started with my son's PeeWee hockey team playing for a chance to advance to a tournament in Canada. I try hard not to do any yelling at youth hockey, but the emotional torment of those games is matched only by one particular school. Later that evening, the two of us went see the Broncos face the Niners for Sunday Night Football, and there was plenty of yelling at Mile High. Monday saw an Alter Bridge (best band in the world) concert downtown, an event that unfortunately happens here only about every 3 years. Tuesday, the Avalanche were at home to face Florida which meant we were in the Pepsi Center yelling for our hockey club. Thursday was back to Mile High to see the Broncos meet whiny Phillip Rivers and the Bolts and more standing and yelling. Friday was another Avs game, this time against Vancouver.

And then there was a college football game yesterday at CU.

As awesome as that all sounds (and it was) it was a totally exhausting week. There was the anguish of watching my son's team surrender a one goal lead with under three minutes left in the semis. There was the abrupt disappointment of an overtime loss by the Avs to further compound their early season struggles. The Broncos were great twice in 5 days and tons of energy and noise were expended from our seats in the South Stands, but the taste of last year's Super Bowl still lingers over the team and the antidote to that is still months away in Glendale. Alter Bridge is the best band on the planet and more than worth standing in line from noon until showtime and through the entire set so we can try to outsing the amps. The Avs got a big win on Friday but it remains to be seen if that will be the jump start they've been looking for.

After all of those events, my voice is a bit rough today. Truthfully, I make Petros Papadakis sound Josh Grobin right now. It's a good thing this isn't a podcast.

So with those events behind me, I drove up to Boulder yesterday with uclaluv and my son.

It's hard to watch a team that you love have problems. We already watched the Bruins struggle against what were supposed to be outmatched opponents in Virginia and Memphis. We watched the Bruins as they helplessly allowed a long game clinching drive by Utah. We watched the Bruins get bowled over by an Oregon team they had targeted to replace atop the Pac-12. We saw the Bruins need a last minute interception to beat a bad Cal team. And all of that was pretty tough to watch.

Then yesterday we saw an early and impressive 17-0 boat race slow down and limp into halftime with a fortunate 10 point lead, get gassed in the second half, and then hang on to end up in overtime with a team that has won 4 conference games in 4 years.

It was hard to watch it all happen. Living turned to dying. Frustrating. Disappointing, Embarassing. Terrifying. Really hard.

But then our quarterback scrambled for a game winning touchdown in double overtime.

And there it was: My son jumping in my arms. Hugs with uclaluv and a few strangers around me. High fives to anyone within arm's reach. A patch of blue in the corner of Folsom Field cheering deliriously. Surprise, relief, joy.

I've asked my heroin patients what it is that keeps them coming back to such a dangerous drug and a decrepid lifestyle, even though I know their answer.

It's the high. They tell me there's nothing like it at all, and it makes everything, the costs, the health risks, the damage to their lives, all worth it.

U.C.L.A. Football is my heroin.

I'm not sure it's entirely healthy for me. There are a lot of costs to following this team in terms of time and money and emotion, but mostly emotion, and sometimes those investments don't provide an equal return. Maybe the health risks of Bruin fandom aren't as severe as mainlining heroin, but I'm pretty certain this season isn't doing my heart any good.

But yesterday, that moment when the prospect of an utterly humiliating defeat turned into the rush of sudden victory, that is what makes the pain worth it. Moments like when Marvin Goodwin picked off a pass on the goal line, or when JJ Stokes rumbled the length of the Rose Bowl, or when Anthony Barr planted a opposing QB in the Rose Bowl turf. It's those moments, those highs, that keep me addicted, through all the time and work and costs, to U.C.L.A. Football.

It doesn't mean I'm satisfied with how this team is performing as a whole. On the contrary, I'm not. I don't need to repeat the problems with this football team here. We've discussed them over and over and they were on display again yesterday. We aren't what was billed, we aren't where we thought we'd be, and we don't look like we are headed anywhere near that direction. Someone is going to need to fix things, or there are going to be some very painful changes in the not-so-distant future. Sort of how those heroin addicts ultimately know they need to get clean.

But for all the wrong that has happened so far this season and will predictably occur before we're done, the possibility of a high like yesterday will keep me addicted and I'll always come back to chase that Bruin high.

Hi. My name is Greg. I'm a U.C.L.A. Football fan. And being a fan is awesome. Well, today, anyway.