Bumped. - BN Eds.
On the way home from the Rose Bowl this past Friday, I told my dad that I rued the day that he made me a UCLA fan and that I would have been infinitely happier in life had I grown up a Trojan fan. That I would have had ample opportunity to celebrate national championships without caring that they would eventually would be vacated or that Trojan heroes like OJ Simpson and Reggie Bush would eventually be tarnished. My dad didn't even go to UCLA but my uncle did and my dad went to every basketball and football game with his brother and treated it like his own school. He started taking me to Bruin football games when I was five though he had been a season ticket holder for years prior to that, bringing my older brothers before me. My brothers and I thought the games were the best: the mascots, the marching band, the Rose Bowl, and of course, the football.
My favorite part about the games as a kid was right before the game started when you could hear the drums from the Bruin marching band echoing in the Rose Bowl tunnels and I knew that UCLA was the only school I would ever go to. I grew up idolizing Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe. I loved Troy Aikman, Flipper Anderson, Jonathan Ogden, Carlton Gray, and many, many others over the years. In high school I bet my friends who were diehard Trojans a six pack of Coke on the game every year and every year they had to pay up. And I studied my arse off and did everything I could to get in.
Eventually, I was the only one of the 3 of us to go to UCLA even though both of my brothers were also accepted. Sadly, my uncle passed away at a young age just before UCLA won their final bball championship, but my aunt sent me a heartfelt note letting me know that he would have been proud. During my freshman year we had a down season but Skip Hicks beat SC in double OT and that made the season bearable. I was in the marching band by then and had to endure heckling from rabid Cal fans (seriously, an elderly Cal fan spat at my feet and shouted that we should go back to LA) and the ever classy SC fans who chanted "Affirmative Action" at us when we marched through the Coliseum crowd which reaffirmed my choice to attend UCLA. Some of my fondest memories at UCLA were being in that RB tunnel before the game with the entire UCLA marching band, of being on the RB field for pre-game and halftime, and also in helping Cade McNown with his textbooks when I worked in the student store then seeing him knock the shit out of opponents on Saturdays. I would have bled blue and gold if you cut me.
Fast forward past a Cotton Bowl (won), a Rose Bowl(lost), and my dad and I kept up the tradition of our season tickets. We changed from the Alumni section on the sunny side the to the shady side and now to the Wooden donor section. And every year it seems we have ended the season by saying what everyone else on this site has grown tired of saying: Well, there's always next year OR at least we have basketball(no further comment).
I made a pledge after I graduated that I planned to attend as many away games as possible. Notre Dame was sold out but I have been to Texas and Nebraska and am planning for LSU, Oklahoma and Michigan. In addition to Freedom, Rose and Cotton, I have been to many bowl games, mostly in places where I have almost literally frozen my arse off (Vegas, Eagle Bank, Holiday, Sun). To add insult to injury we have lost several of those bowls and my friends and I bitterly had to endure snide remarks from BYU fans all weekend in one particularly ugly Vegas Bowl. And I go to these games because I have always thought that the players worked their asses off to get to a Bowl and we as UCLA fans should show our support for them, particularly because they say that the UCLA fan base doesn't travel well and I want to prove them wrong.
But, I'm getting older and as I'm contributing more (I'm not a big donor by any stretch of the imagination but I give what I can, when I can), I'm rapidly approaching that Network moment when I'm going to stand up in the middle of the Rose Bowl and shout: I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!
And I am just TIRED. I can deal with buying the new alternate unis, going to scrimmages and practices, waiting for 2 f--king hours just to get into parking for the SC game 5.5 hours before game time, and even going to lower level bowls if the kids(players) have a great time. But I am tired of the excuses (we all are familiar with them), of reveling in being the underdog, of being gutty, of being told that next year will be THE year, of having to endure major losses like Miami and Stanford, of seeing those entitled pricks at Cheat On continue to prosper, but mostly, I'm tired of seeing these amazing players at my amazing University having a few good seasons here and there but never getting over the hump.
In the scheme of things and the world, what does it really matter that we aren't winning national championships? It doesn't. Truthfully, by the time the bowls are final, and even though on Friday I was so pissed I declared I wasn't going to any lower tier bowl game ever again, I'll most likely be buying that plane ticket to San Antonio, or making that drive to San Diego, or doing whatever I can to support this team because the bottom line is I love UCLA and I love UCLA football and that will never change. But after 30 years of being a diehard fan, every year it gets a little harder for me to believe that we will ever be that elite team, and I rue that thought most of all.