This has been a tough season for UCLA basketball. The team has played inconsistently all season long and left many fans scratching their heads wondering whether or not the team will show up from one game to the next.
Well, last night, the UCLA Men's Basketball team posted a video of the team prior to last night's game against Utah to the team's Facebook page. The video was initially offered as a live (and uncensored) streaming video. It was part of the Athletic Department's continued attempt to give fans an "all-access pass" behind the scenes of UCLA Athletics.
The video shows the team walking out of their Pauley Pavilion locker room with absolutely no focus, intensity or emotion. They didn't appear psyched up to play at all and looked like they would rather be anywhere else.
Prior to the doors to the Pauley floor opening, one of the players, I'm not sure which one, can be heard saying "Get the f--- out of here, dawg." Additional foul language can be heard as the video continues.
According to sources inside the Athletic Department who declined to be identified, the video was removed this morning because the foul language was deemed to be not acceptable.
Frankly, while Coach Wooden may not have approved of such language, these days it isn't surprising that foul language would be used by student-athletes and knowing that it was initially shot as live and, as a result, uncensored video certainly explains the lack of editing.
And, personally, I'm willing to excuse the language as a result. To the credit of the Athletic Department, they did remove it because the language wasn't acceptable.
But, the big issue, in my mind, is that the players' body language seemed to indicate that they were nowhere near prepared mentally to play a "must-win" basketball game. This was a game in which a win was vitally important to the team's hopes of making the NCAA Tournament.
Yet, the players looked like they couldn't seem to care less.
Ironically, as I wrote last night, the team played well in the first half as they managed to keep the game close throughout the half and didn't seem to hit a rut until the start of the second half.
So, perhaps, the impression of the video which I didn't see until this morning may not have been accurate.
But, to me, I felt this video reflects extremely poorly on the basketball program under Coach Steve Alford.
The fact that the team looked like they would rather be anywhere else is an indictment on the state of the program. Alford should have made sure the team was fired up and ready to play last night. You would expect that as the head coach, he would have had them focused to play from the moment they walked out of the locker room.
If you've seen the video, you probably agree that clearly was not the case.
The best points of comparison are the pre-game videos of the football team walking out of the locker room at the Rose Bowl. Coach Mora's team always looks intense, focused and locked-in when they leave the locker room for the field.
One could certainly argue that basketball is a different game and that it's not as militaristic as football. That's certainly true, but, whatever the sport, players tend to get into "the zone" when they get ready to compete and there was no sense of that in the video.
At the same time, some may suggest that having a chance that the content of a pre-game "all-access" video will be analyzed by fans and/or the media is a reason to not give fans an opportunity to see a side of sports that we haven't traditionally seen.
Personally, I think that's nonsense. We live in the day and age of all-access. If it's not when the team walks out of the locker room, it's when something happens somewhere in public.
What's the first thing that people do when that happens? They whip out the cell phone and start recording. To think, otherwise, is naive, at best. If you don't believe me, turn on Fox Sports 1 late tonight when TMZ Sports airs. We live in a world with a 24-7 newscycle and no one is immune. You can thank the good folks at YouTube for that, I guess.
Sure, someone somewhere in the Athletic Department may use this as an excuse to shut down the department's all-access videos like the one from last night. But, the warts of transparency are only a symptom of a bigger problem. It is not the actual problem.
Instead, it is indicative of a bigger problem somewhere in the program that needs to be solved.
Perhaps, instead of worrying about what people will think about a live and uncensored video, those individuals should focus on the behaviors actually exhibited by the team in the video. Or, as Coach Wooden put it:
Be more concerned about your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are and your reputation is merely what others think you are.
Now might be a good time for every person associated with the UCLA basketball program to reflect on both their personal character as well as the character of the program, starting with Dan Guerrero going down to Steve Alford and the coaching staff and continuing down to each of the players.
Unfortunately, it might be too little, too late for this season.