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A Farewell to (Pitching) Arms

To everything there is a season (turn, turn, turn).

UCLA, Home of Champions and Proudly My Alma Mater
UCLA, Home of Champions and Proudly My Alma Mater

I have decided to relinquish my role as a front page for BruinsNation. Before I get into the reasons for this decision, I have some thanks to share. First, to Nestor, Bellerophon, and the other original founders, thank you so much for getting this site off the ground and providing a forum for UCLA fans to share their love of our teams. Second, to gbruin for recruiting me to the front page and my fellow front pagers (joebruin15, ieangel, uclaluv, menelaus, chrissorr, dcbruins, etc) for continuing the efforts to push this site forward. Third, to the readers who contribute so much to our mutual understanding and enjoyment- particularly (with no slight intended to those I do not name) bruinut, bruinfollower, 66, fox71, bruinette, math and beer, and brugym.

Now, as to the reasons as to why I am stepping back-

1. I am a volunteer. Before I joined the front pages, I would contribute fanposts from time to time. These were on topics which interested me, and on which I thought I might be able to provide a different or a new perspective. But I did these when I felt like it, and not under any pressure to produce. It was only when I joined the front pages that I realized the effort involved in keeping this site timely and engaging. It is far different to produce a fanpost when you feel like it versus producing  an article to fill the Thursday afternoon slot. My hats go off to every current and former front pager. The amount of information which is produced here on a free, voluntary basis is amazing. But I am at the stage where I do not feel like I can provide the time commitment required so I am stepping back. I am a volunteer (not quite the same ring as "I have a dream", but you get what you pay for).

2. I am a volunteer. There is no better source of information on UCLA football than BruinsNation. Between IE's eye test and gbruin's morning after, I can get all the insight I could ever want. Everything else (and there is plenty) is gravy. I don't feel like I can add anything meaningful on a regular basis to the football discussion, especially being as removed from campus as I am. And when it comes to men's basketball, the less said the better (but I will say more, nonetheless). I have zero interest in this team as long as Steve Alford is displaying #daddyball at its worst. If I want to see dads favoring their underperforming sons, I can head to any little league field. I don't need to see it at the college level, particularly at my school.

My passion is college baseball, and to a lesser extent, the other olympic sports. I know that this qualifies me as old school, but I think baseball is the greatest game. It is the only game that I know of involving a ball where the offense scores without the ball (think about it), except cricket which involves three day matches and tea breaks and no foul balls and no need to run on a grounder. My son played college baseball, and I got to see first hand the dedication and sacrifice involved for student-athletes in the so-called "minor" sports. The contrast between a water polo attacker, who will most likely not receive any money in the future from playing his or her sport of choice, and Shabazz Muhammad (to pick an easy example) is easy to see. And I choose the dedicated toiler in obscurity.

But what drives the fan base, including at BN based on article comments,  is football and basketball. This is not unique to UCLA for sure. What is unique to UCLA is having Steve Alford leading our basketball program. Every other school should have this experience, the sooner the better. But the consequence of football and basketball driving the bus is that I spend time researching and writing articles which generate little heat. I know that it is not a lack of research. And I like to think that I am reasonably articulate. So it must be the subject matter. If John Savage had a son on the baseball team, and he made him the Friday starter in front of James Kaprielian (a projected 1st rounder) and let him bat cleanup in front of Ty Moore (a Cape Cod all-star), we would probably have many more comments. But in the real world, Coach Savage is a master of putting in place a system to utilize his roster in a way which maximizes the chances for collective success (you don't get to Omaha 3 times in 4 years and win it all by luck). So success becomes routine, which is really unfortunate.

I am not suggesting that anybody has to read and comment on a topic which does not interest him or her, simply because I wrote an article on said topic. But at the same time, I don't have to spend time writing articles which do not lead to extended conversations (at least based on the number of comments). I am a volunteer.

3. I am a volunteer. One of the collective roles of the front pagers is to police the site, and keep the conversation civilized and appropriate. The following will probably be somewhat controversial. A conscious effort has been made to put forth a kinder and gentler tone amongst the front pagers when it comes to posting articles. But I don't see the same shift in tone among the commenters as a whole.

One of the real benefits to me of BN is comments which touch on topics in a way which I had not considered. I will give an example of what I consider a valuable comment and an example of a non-valuable comment, covering the same topic.

(A)  "Jim Mora is a great coach. He has won more games his first three years than any other coach in UCLA history."

(B) "You guys are such haters. Jim Mora is a great coach, and all your negativity is just bringing the fans down. I am tired of reading this crap, and you guys should quit writing it."

The value in (A) is that it provides a fact which I had not realized. This led me to see if the fact was correct (it was), and then to consider whether he is a great coach because of that. My conclusion is that the jury is still out, and will be until he gets us to New Year's games on a regular basis (and don't say that is an impossible bar- just ask Oregon or Stanford). And I realized that it was much harder to get to as many wins for prior coaches like Red Sanders and Tommy Prothro when the season was shorter, when you could only go to the Rose Bowl or stay home, and when games could end in a tie. But (A) is nevertheless a viable proposition, and engenders an interesting discussion. I love comments like that, and if I was spending my time policing and responding to comments like that, I would be a happier camper.

But too often we see (B). How do you respond to this comment? The completely valid response is "if you don't like it, don't read it, and don't tell us what or how to write." That makes for a very short conversation. (B) does not lead to an interesting chain, to say the least. Anybody who has read this far is not making comments in the (B) category. Our informed community is fantastic. But I found myself spending far too much time in (B) land. I am a volunteer.

This brings me to my final comment, and it relates to (B). When I was at UCLA, we had a transition from Franklin Murphy ( a very good chancellor) to Charles Young ( a great chancellor). We had J.D. Morgan as our AD. We had John Wooden as our basketball COACH (emphasis added on purpose). Some may say "You can't have Young, Morgan, and Wooden ever again. You are being completely unrealistic." My reply is "Who said anything about Young, Morgan and Wooden? I know we can't have them. But does that mean we have to settle for Block, Guerrero and Alford?"

When I make negative comments, it is not because I am a pessimist. It is because I am an optimist. I know that we can do better. We are UCLA.

Even though I am bowing out of the front page, I will remain an active member of the BN community. I will do fanposts on my schedule, on topics which interest me. If you find them interesting also, great. Please feel free to chime in with comments. That is how we all become collectively more informed and more connected to our school. I am a volunteer.