My Halloween Memories and Thoughts

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ONE GUY’S RECOLLECTIONS OF HIS ALL HALLOWS EVE EXPERIENCES

 

Being that All Hallows’ Eve is fast approaching as of this writing, I thought I’d offer some homage to this orange-and black, Jack-o-Lantern semi-holiday and reminisce about some memories I have regarding it…

By the way:  For the record, I refer to Halloween as a semi-holiday because unlike on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, schools, post offices and libraries remain open and mail still gets delivered.

Actually, I see Halloween as more of a special day for kids and young people than a real holiday due to the fact that much if not all of the fun and benefits surrounding that day focuses on youngsters, what with the trick-or-treating and the candy and the carnivals and costume parades held at schools across America.

I know such is the case from having worked at various schools for an over twenty-year period.

As for my personal experiences with this day, well…

Compared to the average person, I really don’t have many.

For some reason (here comes a shock), I never went trick-or-treating as a child.

Not even once.

It just never appealed to me, perhaps because I had a bit of an aversion to knocking on strangers’ doors due to my Asperger’s Syndrome condition as the only time I wore a costume during my elementary and junior high school days was at age eight, when my grandmother took me to my school’s carnival and I dressed as a truck driver.

I was perfectly happy with handing out candy to those who came upon my door and watching, on TV and on video, the animated classic It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which I continue to do to this day.

Not that I was a 100% wallflower as I did manage to attend exactly two Halloween parties, one during my senior year in high school and other one occurring a few years later as a young adult, dressing in my old Pony League baseball uniform for the high school gig and a Brooklyn Dodger for the other one.

It was an easy way to come in costume without making such a big deal out of what I’d wear, as baseball was my background.

It was also probably due to my less-than-cool status stemming from being an Aspie that kept me from being a regular at Halloween blowouts; not that I minded that much, of course.

My number one memory of All Hallows, the recollection I am most fond of, was during my ninth grade year at John Adams Junior High School in Santa Monica (CA), where I was attending; 1981 to be precise.

John Adams held something called “Hobo Day” every October 31 during those days; it was a longtime tradition that everyone enjoyed .

However, I promise you that no one dressed like a hobo on that occasion.

Not even close.

I always came “dressed as myself”, so to speak, but for a 14-year old adolescent male it was a most pleasurable school day due to what many of the female students were wearing.

Skimpy costumes such as French maids in tiny skirts and Playboy bunnies with those iconic high-cut outfits dotted the campus as we guys kept saying variations of this throughout the day:

“Did you see so-and-so? Damn, she looks fine!”

I particularly remember a girl in my English class coming to school dressed as the world’s sexiest roach, with numerous arms sticking out of a black leotard which quite a few guys went nuts over as she was one of the best looking girls in the school to begin with.

The girl I went crazy about that day (who was likewise in my English class) wasn’t as sexily dressed as the other girls, but she got more than enough of my notice as she wore a little minidress with a cape (I think) and black tights.

So much so that I got a fairly big crush on her from that day through the rest of that year.

Outside of that, that was pretty much it as far as Halloween memories as my plans this year are the same as it has been for the past twenty some-odd years:

Pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters and put in my copy of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to watch.

Pathetically boring, I know, but It’s what I’m used to.

Plus as I’ve said, I don’t mind. And I’m minding less as I’ve gotten older.

I’m just glad that I have those few memories to hold onto.

 

Trick or treaters on the porch

Unlike these young folks, going to people’s houses and begging for candy while dressed in some costume was something that just never interested me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MY ASPIE LIFE: The Main Motivation For Why I Began a Writing Career

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While trying to figure out what my newest post would be on this blog, I realized something:

I HAD NEVER MENTIONED WHAT I WOULD CONSIDER THE MAIN REASON WHY I STARTED A WRITING CAREER AFTER OVER TWENTY YEARS OF WORKING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE IN EDUCATION AND COACHING SPORTS.

I won’t waste any time – here it is:

After largely struggling in the workforce for over two decades, there were several reasons why I began writing…

First: Quite simply, folks – even those who otherwise had a low opinion of me in the various jobs I worked at over the years and elsewhere, kept telling me how talented I was in the written word.

Second:  After quitting my last job out of sheer frustration and perceived oppression, I felt that it was high time to pursue what wanted to do as being forty something, I figured that if I was going to be a writer I had better do it NOW, or live in regret that I hadn’t.

Third:  I wanted to once and for all satisfy my lifelong urge to express myself, to write about my opinions and what I know. That’s why I was involved with two sites where I could post articles and be paid royalties for them, Triond.com and HubPages.com, for six years.

As well as two sports sites, Bleacher Report and the FanSided Network, where I wrote pieces on just about every sports team that calls the Los Angeles area home in addition to my collegiate alma mater, UCLA; I was even lead editor on a site called SoCalSportsHub.com for a while before it joined FanSided and eventually became L.A. Sports Hub.com.

 

While those reasons for pursuing writing were important, this is the main one…

I wanted to tell my story about being mainstreamed in the Neurotypical (non-disabled) world with Asperger’s Syndrome; the struggles I have had with that throughout my life, something written in plain language – unlike seemingly all of those other AS (short for Asperger’s) books out there that read like a medical journal from Harvard.

That was and is my motivation for working on a book called “MY ASPIE LIFE: Living With Asperger’s Syndrome in a Neurotypical World”.

Although it tells stories going back to when I was five years old, it’s not a conventional memoir; at least I don’t see it as such, but rather a tome which hopefully will make the reader understand once and for all how rough it can be for someone who is mainstreamed in the world with a disorder on the Autism Spectrum who didn’t – and doesn’t – spend his time in special needs programs with all of the bullying and ostracism that I have endured due to this high-functioning condition of mine.

I began work on “MY ASPIE LIFE” a few years ago, and can say that good progress has been made as I am currently working on the first draft of chapter ten in what I plan to be an 11-chapter (plus a short epilogue) tale.

Some will probably think that I’m taking a little longer than I should, but I am buoyed by the fact that Alex Haley took twelve full years to write his iconic classic Roots, while J.K. Rowling spent seven years writing her first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

As well as accepting that a big part of my writing style – at least as far as writing a book is concerned – is akin to a camel drinking water in that it can go quite a while between satisfying its needs in that regard.

Since I’m on the last couple of chapters, I believe I’m doing pretty well as I have given myself a deadline of late July, 2015 to have the book finished and self-published.

Emphasis on self-published, as at this stage of my writing endeavors I have absolutely NO desire whatsoever to have what’s likely going to be an approximately 300-page book sitting on some publisher’s desk unread with hundreds of others, or to get dozens of letters saying “Thank you for your submission, but at this time your book does not fit our needs.”

Why go through all of that when I can just publish “MY ASPIE LIFE” myself?

Which is exactly what I plan to do.

Now I don’t expect this book to be an epic best seller like Roots, Harry Potter or that Shades of Grey series that’s all the rage nowadays, not by any means, as it would be arrogant of me to believe such.

But I do hope that the public’s sympathies for those with a disability that’s not as obvious as Down’s Syndrome or paralysis will grow at least a little bit from the words I write; I suppose that’s my principal goal.

I’ll be sure to give an update on the book’s progress when it’s near conclusion…

 

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My Health Issue Scare: Proof That I Need To Take Care of Myself Once & For All

High-Blood-Pressure A STORY ABOUT HOW AN ISSUE WITH MY HEALTH HAS CONVINCED ME TO UP MY GAME AND COMPLETELY CHANGE THINGS AS FAR AS MY LIFESTYLE AND CHOICES

This won’t be easy to write, as I’m exposing myself and taking a risk that people will panic.

But I feel it should be told, so here it is:

I was recently at a party where everything was all fine and hunky dorky; me visiting with my relatives and having some fine chicken soft tacos, except for one thing…

The right side of my head was not exactly throbbing with excruciating pain, but felt like someone was squeezing it like one of those small rubber balls that people use to strengthen their hands.

It was a traveling kind of squeezing in that sometimes I felt it above my ear and sometimes I felt it between my eye and my ear.

Speaking of hands, my right hand was feeling all prickly and numb like it was asleep. This was happening off an on.

As all of this was happening over the past few days, I stupidly thought it was not that big a deal and I would get it checked out at the hospital within the next day or two.

Until those symptoms not only continued, but got a bit worse on the way back home; that’s when I decided to head for the hospital right then and there.

I got to Kaiser Permanente’s emergency room – which surprisingly wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be – and told the desk clerk what was happening with me. Thank goodness I had my Medicare card as I was checked in and waited to be called.

As the place wasn’t too full, I was called relatively quickly as I told the nurse my symptoms and what I feared…

That I was on the way to having a stroke as when I was tested, my blood pressure was about as bad as it could be; I won’t give you the numbers but trust me; it was pretty much off the charts.

As was my weight (again, I won’t tell you what it is, but suffice it to say I was/am very much over what I should be) when I got on the scale.

Put it this way: the nurses and the doctor that treated me weren’t happy with what they saw.

The worst part of all this was the fact that I have had high blood pressure for a while as it’s unfortunately embedded in my genetics, but stupidly thought I could handle it myself without any help as I didn’t want to be dependent on pills for the rest of my life.

Which once again was stupid as while I exercised fairly regularly, walking nearly everywhere and working out periodically in the form of walking on the treadmill, going on the stair master, and using the Nautilus machine in the workout room of my condominium complex’s clubhouse as well as playing pick-up softball.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing enough of that lately.

Plus I was not eating right all the time, munching on food that’s not the best for one’s health; I won’t specify what those foods were but be assured, they were not very good.

So anyhow…

I was sent into a room where I put on one of those gowns and spent the next several hours getting my chest X-rayed, my arm poked and my blood tested for several different possible issues, and in particular taking a small pink pill, having medication fed into me via an IV, and getting my arm squeezed roughly six times – every 15  minutes at one point – in order to get my blood pressure lowered and under control.

I even received a CAT scan, the technician wheeling my bed into the room where my eyes were covered and I was rolled into one of those cylinder things.

Thank God that except for my bad blood pressure and the fact that my temple and hand were illustrations of that, everything else checked out well as I had no blockages or aneurysms or tumors in my brain.

Nor did I have diabetes or prostate cancer or anything like that; I know I would have been told such if I did.

By the time everything was done, it was a little after one in the morning; it was two a.m. when I finally arrived home with two bottles of blood pressure pills in hand, which I took my first dosage right away before I showered and went to bed.

The whole time I was in the hospital, I decided – once and for all – that that was it for me and the lifestyle I was leading up to that point; which with ignorance thought was fairly OK until my head and my hand told me otherwise.

No more fast food (except for Subway) for me as from here on out, I only eat chicken and fish with turkey and beef being a rarity now.

And especially a lot less sodium as that’s a key factor in high blood pressure; I’m keeping my daily intake down to less than 1000 as I was told that 1200 is the norm.

With everyone reading this as my witnesses, I’m vowing to eat a LOT more fruit and vegetables, particularly bananas as my doctor told me that the potassium in them is good for lowering the blood pressure.

Of course I’m going to take medication from now on; I don’t care anymore if it’s for the rest of my life.

And I’m going to be more diligent than ever as far as getting cardiovascular exercise; I plan to go to the clubhouse’s workout area as soon as this post is finished and published.

As well as go to the supermarket across the street and buy fruit and other healthy things I need.

As such, while I’m not currently at 100%, my head and hand are better than they were before.

With God’s help, the medication will take even more of a full effect.

There’s one more thing that I feel I should say…

I hope that everybody who knows me, whether they are relatives or friends, doesn’t freak out while or after reading this.

As I have stated, the doctor told me that my CAT scan and blood tests all checked out fine, and I’m still alive and fully plan to stay that way with the high blood pressure the only thing I need to work on – which I swear I will.

I suppose you can refer to this episode of mine as a wake-up call.

For the past few days that I’ve had this issue, I prayed to God that I wouldn’t die; I’m positive that He led me to the hospital that night.

And I trust the Lord that he will help me get through this as without Him, I’m nothing and it will be more or less impossible to do what I need to do.

I don’t think there’s anything else to say on this subject except for this…

Hold good thoughts for me.

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GOUT AND ME: My Painful Experiences With This Condition

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I knew I shouldn’t have eaten all those extra turkey burgers at that birthday party my cousin gave the other day!

Especially since I knew that turkey has purines, which produces uric acid, which settles in between the bones in your feet and toes and sometimes causes pain.

Pain excruciating enough so you can’t walk without a cane.

Which describes me this week as I have a arthritic condition called Gout, which (though I’m definitely not rich) is called a “rich man’s disease” because during the Middle Ages only rich men were able to afford meat, which is a main source of the purines that causes uric acid.

I remember my first gout attack quite well, unfortunately…

It was during a weekend in February, 2010: A typical weekend for me in that I spent Saturday playing pick-up softball, then after coming home eating my dinner, doing my laundry, and watching TV.

Not what you would call exciting stuff by any means.

Except the next morning I woke up with what felt like roughly a dozen razors sawing through the side of my right toe, which only grew to a pronounced level that night as I tried to sleep, which of course I couldn’t as I found myself yelling in pain.

I thought that I had broken a bone from playing softball until my brother found out what I had on the internet.

While I was glad for the knowledge, it didn’t help with the pain until I went to the doctor a few days later – my foot encased in a walking boot due to the swelling that precluded my from wearing regular shoes (not that I didn’t try as I had some Nike trainers that were destroyed by attempting to wear them) – and got some medication.

Which helped pretty much right away as within a few days the swelling went down, the pain went away and I was able to ditch the walking boot.

I had realized that it was eating turkey, a main staple of my diet, that was the root of my painful gout condition; for the next few months I made it a point to severely limit my turkey intake until one day in July, soon after the 4th.

My family and I had grilled turkey burgers, and I made the poor judgement of eating too many.

That’s when the intense, barbed-wire level pain came back, this time on the side of my left toe. The doctor prescribed pills for me again and I fortunately got through that gout pain all right.

In fact, a couple of months later, when a friend of mine told me about how cherry juice alleviates gout pain, I thought I had found the answer; a way to continue to enjoy turkey and not feel left out on Thanksgiving Day without depending on pills for the rest of my life.

I quickly became a cherry juice-oholic as it indeed proved to be effective in preventing my gout from flaring up. I just made sure to not only drink the stuff with meals in which I ate turkey, but also on a regular basis for prevention.

It worked for four years – until this past weekend at my cousin’s party.

I had even brought my own bottle of 100% black cherry juice, knowing that turkey burgers were going to be the featured staple at this shin-dig, and drank up the majority of the bottle after I ate my four burgers.

Which unfortunately didn’t work as the next day the feelings of razors trying to cut into my right toes and upper foot were back; apparently there were too much purines and uric acid for the cherry juice to offset.

Luckily the pain hasn’t been as bad as my other two gout attacks thanks to swigging cherry juice, but my right foot still looks like I had borrowed it from the Michelin Man.

 

So…I reckon you’re saying right about now: What’s the moral of this story?

It’s not an elaborate one, basically to take care of yourself and to try and not make errors in judgement as far as your health.

In my case, to NOT EAT TOO MUCH TURKEY!

As such, I need to stay the heck away from eating that particular bird for the next few weeks, most likely until Thanksgiving.

If I do that, I should be able to avoid the lack of sleep coming from the gout pain and swelling in my foot.

 

 

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The source of my gout condition…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UCLA FOOTBALL 2014: After This Lost Weekend, Do These Bruins Have a Chance?

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The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA: Site of UCLA’s now two-game losing streak

 

I won’t take up too much space in this opinion piece or take too long, because to be honest there’s not that much to say about this team after what happened in their most recent game.

Except for these things…

*  Has anyone else besides me wondered when was the last time this Bruin football bunch lost two consecutive games – at home?

I’ll say this about that Utah defeat: At least UCLA had a chance to win that game.

Against those Ducks from Eugene, OR, however – which incidentally was where arguably the greatest comedy of all time, Animal House, was filmed – it became crystal clear by the middle of the third quarter that the Bruins had NO chance of beating Oregon as Marcus Mariota and company did what they wanted in that second half in particular.

*  I certainly can’t speak for everyone else, but I was one embarrassed Bruin at the Rose Bowl this past Saturday

In fact, the last time I felt that embarrassed at a UCLA football game was during Thanksgiving Weekend in 2011, when USC made the Bruins look like eight-year old Pop Warner players in their 50-0 beat down at the Coliseum that year.

It was a good thing I was in Las Vegas on vacation at that time, because I didn’t have to show my face among ‘SC fans.

Having said that, amongst this disastrous fiasco of a game there actually WERE a couple of things that eased my embarrassment a little:

1.  Paul Perkins 

The running back had his best day in a Bruin uniform with his 190 yards on 22 carries behind an offensive line that admittedly performed better, averaging 8.6 yards a pop as the term “Bright Spot”  and “UCLA has found their feature running back” are significant understatements in this case.

2.  The Bruins didn’t quit

Even if it was during garbage time with the game long decided, I need to acknowledge that scoring those three touchdowns in the fourth quarter was quite encouraging.

And the yell leaders, one in particular who was in my section working her heart out to egg the crowd on, did a most admirable job in keeping the fans’ spirits up in the face of UCLA getting butt hurt on the field; it must be tough to keep up the enthusiasm when your team is being beaten up so badly.

Now that I have covered the silver linings…

Besides the fact that the coaches had no guts in not going for it on fourth down when their were within the five-yard line in the first quarter, and showing their lack of guts in a similar situation later in the game,

I have no desire to put any emphasis on the Bruins’ stats or their standing in the Pac-12 South, nor do I want to go on and on about what their problems are, why they are not an elite team or even a very good team in too many areas.

I’ll go ahead and answer the question that I asked in this post’s title regarding UCLA’s chances for the rest of the season, which has six games left:

SURE, THE BRUINS STILL HAVE A CHANCE TO ACCOMPLISH POSITIVE THINGS THIS YEAR…but I’m going to make that a tentative sure.

The reason for that sentiment is simple:

Realistically speaking, I’m not sure – at all – if this band of UCLA Bruins can win out.

I truly wish I could say otherwise, but I just can’t as the way this team is performing and executing right now (especially on defense), none of the remaining games are gimmes, including last-place Colorado on October 25th.

Yes they can do a complete 180-degree turn and go on a six-game winning streak against the likes of (next opponent) California, Arizona, Washington, USC and Stanford.

But with much regret in saying this, they could also lose those games as well.

In other words, these Bruins could finish 10-2 or 9-3.

But they could also go 6-6 or 5-7.

Or even – God Forbid – 4-8.

One thing is for certain…

THIS IS A TEAM THAT NEEEDS TO PLAY WITH AN ACUTE SENSE OF DESPERATION BECAUSE ONE MORE LOSS AND THIS SEASON – AS FAR AS ACCOMPLISHING GREAT THINGS – WILL BE PRETTY MUCH OVER.

This desperation will need to begin in a place where they haven’t won since Bill Clinton was the President: Berkeley against an improved Cal Bear team that features a very high flying offense.

I honestly don’t 100% know if UCLA can completely fix their issues (read: defense) and turn things around – although I certainly hope they do.

By roughly 6:00 p.m. on October 18th we’ll all know their probable fate.

 

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A bright spot in the Bruins’ disappointing day against Oregon

 

A final note:  I’ll continue my coverage of UCLA’s football team in the middle of November, the week before their showdown with USC, as I have quite a bit to say about that rivalry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Confessions of a Confused Aspie

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DESCRIBING ONE OF THE MOST PREVAILING TRAITS OF MY ASPERGER’S SYNDROME

A few years ago I was at the local public library down the street from my house, which at that time I visited daily to post articles and stories on different writers’ websites like Triond.com and Hubpages.com.

This particular day I was heading for the row of public computers as usual, hoping I can get two hours on the PC I chose to work on because the library had a one-hour-at-a-time limit on computer usage and sometimes someone else would reserve the computer I was on for that second hour – which would upset me as I would fight to keep my composure and squelch down my Asperger’s urges to react in a immature way – when this woman spotted me.

“Derek! How are you? It’s been SO long !” this lady exclaimed to as if she knew me for over thirty years.

Which as it turned out she did as after a few minutes, I recognized her as a former elementary school classmate of mine, fourth grade to be precise as she was one of the first kids I met after moving to Santa Monica, CA in 1976.

Here’s the rub:

As a young nine and ten year-old, this lady was no friend of mine as she, for the most part, bullied me and treated me like vermin during those formative years.

She would call me “Ape” and “Gorilla” on numerous occasions, and picked a fight with me one day after I dared to retaliate by saying “Your Mama!” on the playground at lunch.

I tried to walk away, knowing even then that you’re not supposed to hit girls, but she hauled off and punched me on the back of the shoulder.That’s when I pretty much had no choice but to get into it with her.

Before anyone goes off on how much of a bum I was for fighting a girl, remember we were dumb ten year olds at that time.

I reckon folks are thinking right about now, “What the confusing part of all of this?”

Here it is…

Over three decades after that incident, which wasn’t the only time I was bullied by her, here she was acting as if we were lifelong best friends when we weren’t; how could she act as if we were so tight when she apparently hated me back then?

And I made that known to her in that library that day, telling her about how she bullied me and made me feel like dirt.

To her credit, she apologized, which I accepted as I understood that as we were youngsters, I really shouldn’t hold any grudges or have an attitude of never forgiving someone for what they did as a child. I also understood that as I was different from the other kids in a sort of dorky way, I was a target as the saying, “Survival of the Fittest” certainly applied on the elementary school level, which was precisely why it was necessary to forgive her.

But it didn’t stop me from feeling confusion as with (at least) this aspie – I can’t speak for everyone with that condition – although the world is generally based on shades of gray, I can’t help but see things strictly in black and white.

And because of the wiring in my brain it will always be that way.

In other words, if you were a friend to me, you’re a friend forever.

If you’re an enemy to me, you’re an enemy forever – unless something extremely blatant and obvious happens that leaves me no choice but to change my opinion on both accounts, of course.

This “Black and White” mentality has also manifested itself in the workforce, particularly when it came to relations with bosses and supervisors.

A supervisor would jump on my case or tell me what to do in a manner that to me would make me think that such supervisor didn’t think much of me and saw me as an inferior human being. I would think, “Well, he/she sure doesn’t like me!”

Then outside of work, that same person would  oftentimes greet me as if I am his/her good friend, which would confuse me on a pronounced scale; how can someone (in my mind) treat me like scum at one place, then be completely different with me somewhere else?

That has always induced much confusion in me as it was – and is – apparent that my aspie brain doesn’t really have the ability to separate different roles between people at different times.

And unfortunately never will, because it’s too confusing and not simplistic enough to me.

I suppose I’m a bit of a simpleton in that context.

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Something that people should remember about aspies and others on the autism spectrum.

UCLA FOOTBALL 2014: An Assessment of the Bruins at the Season’s (Not Quite) Halfway Point

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If you are a fan of the UCLA football team, you may want to use caution as you read this, as well as keep an open mind and try to refrain from saying I’m nothing but a hater who has given up on my alma mater’s program.

Because after what transpired at the Rose Bowl in their last game, I am not going to sugarcoat anything as in the time-honored tradition of “Tough Love”, I am going to be brutally honest about these Bruins and how they have performed not only against their last opponent, the Utah Utes, but during this 2014 season in general.

Probably the most brutal that I’ve been about UCLA on the gridiron in a while.

There was one moment in particular as I sat in Section 1 at the Rose Bowl – yes, I was at this past Saturday’s game – when, sorry to say, I got a gut feeling that Utah was going to win.

It was just before the start of the fourth quarter, during a TV timeout…

I was looking at the two sidelines as both teams gathered together to pump themselves up for the last 15 minutes of what, despite everything, was a hard-fought battle of a game that could go either way.

All of the Bruins gathered together in a huddle and jumping up and down in a fairly modest fashion. I got the impression that they were pumped, but not as excited and jacked to the ceiling as they needed to be.

Which is exactly what I noticed among those red and black-clad Utes from Salt Lake City as they were going absolutely wild, holding their helmets up in the air and squirting water from their bottles.

I hoped I would be wrong in my prediction as the quarter started, and as it turned out I almost was, but…

Well, we all – at least in Bruin Nation – know the outcome of that contest, so I don’t think I need to rehash bad images or bitter memories.

However…

do believe I need to look at this blue and gold-colored team with a harsh hand and a brutally “Tough Love” assessment:

 

THERE ARE TOO MANY HOLES IN THIS BRUIN TEAM TO BE CONSIDERED AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE.

 

What’s more, these holes were exposed in the weeks before Utah celebrated on the Rose Bowl turf and in front of their fans in the end zone, as I’ll never forget how lightly regarded – at least in football – Memphis almost pulled off the biggest win their history in UCLA’s previous home game

One of those holes is one that I and many others thought would be a strength – the defense, which has more or less been a sieve all season, particularly against the run in giving up 242 yards to the Utes, including the crucial yardage needed for them to make their game-winning field goal.

(By the way, we’ll get to the Bruins’ field goal issues in a moment)

I don’t want to dwell too much on raw statistics, but giving up over 400 yards per game is not going to win a Pac-12 title OR a spot among the four teams in the College Football Playoff.

Neither is the fact that the two (arguably) best players on UCLA’s defense, Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack, have a grand total of four tackles for loss and ZERO sacks between them.

Though things could be MUCH better on that side of the ball, it’s not the defense that’s the biggest problem in my view.

Neither is the kicking, although after looking at Ka’imi Fairbairn’s career numbers as the Bruin placekicker – 69% percentage, including eight-for-18 from 40-plus yards and never making a kick in three tries from more than 50 yards, one of those tries being on Saturday night – it’s safe for me to state this:

Fairbairn is a decent kicker, but he’s just not good enough.

A GREAT kicker, someone who people won’t have to hold their breath for if long tries must be made,  is what UCLA needs to reach the heights that all of Bruin Nation so desires.

To this point, Fairbairn simply does not fit that bill.

It wasn’t my intention to pick on the junior kicker or the Bruin defense, though; that’s saved for a unit that hasn’t just disappointed me, it has flat-out ticked me off:

 

THE OFFENSIVE LINE

 

 

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NO group of guys whose job is to protect the quarterback and make holes for running backs to gain good yardage should EVER be giving up ten – TEN – sacks in a game; no NFL line, no college line, no high school line…heck, not even a Pop Warner line of seven-year olds!

But that’s exactly what those big uglies did on Saturday as it’s a true miracle that touted quarterback Brett Hundley made it through the game without injury, especially after he was sacked three straight times during a second half possession.

Some fans are blaming Hundley as well for not using his legs more and holding on to the ball way too long, as well as him making bad gaffes like throwing that pick-six in the first quarter when no one in a blue jersey was anywhere near the area.

To those fans I say this:

How can you really blame any quarterback when he doesn’t get any time to throw whatsoever?

That has been the case with Hundley not only against Utah, not only this season as he has gone down a whopping 23 times and counting this year, but for his entire tenure at UCLA as no college quarterback has been sacked more than him during the past two and a half years – 109 times in 32 games!

For the record, UCLA’s ranking in sacks allowed out of 128 schools?

124.

To say that that’s not the mark of even a good college football team, let alone a great one, would be a pronounced understatement as all of this futility has led me to this harsh conclusion:

 

THE BRUINS’ OFFENSIVE LINE IS NEITHER GOOD ENOUGH NOR QUICK ENOUGH TO BE TRULY EFFECTIVE ON A CONSISTENT BASIS IN THE PAC-12 CONFERENCE OR IN DIVISION 1 FBS FOOTBALL.

 

It’s common knowledge that pass blocking is done with the feet, as quick feet makes it easier to block effectively. UCLA’s blockers, in my view, are lacking that quickness – the number of sacks allowed are proof enough.

The worst part of all of this is that this Bruin program has had two and a half years to fix this particular issue, and that these group of linemen have, for the most part, been together that long.

That the results have yet to consistently show themselves on the field is very frustrating and anger-inducing.

It reminds me of my first high school band director (I was in the marching band during my high school days as well as at UCLA), who would scream this at us whenever we didn’t perform well or made too many mistakes…

“YOU STINK! YOU CAN’T MARCH!! YOU CAN’T PLAY!!! YOU STINK!!!! I HATE YOU!!!!!”

Change the “march” and “play” to “pass block” and run block”, and that’s precisely what I think about the Bruin offensive line.

And I don’t want to hear about how that unit has suffered injuries as that is nothing but a crutch and an excuse; championship teams replace injured players in a “Next Man Up” approach and don’t miss a beat.

Nor do I want to hear anything about how “These are 18 and 19-year old kids”, and here’s why:

If our country’s Armed Forces personnel – many of them in the same age group as college football players – can die in Iraq and Afghanistan by bullets and IEDs, those college football players (UCLA’s in this case) can take some harsh “Tough Love” criticism as at least they’re not getting shot at.

I can sum this issue up by a saying that I often use for football:

 

“IF YOU DON’T HAVE A GOOD LINE (on either side of the ball), YOU DON’T HAVE A GOOD TEAM.”

 

Right now, the Bruins don’t have a good offensive line.

Period.

And with that being the case, I honestly don’t think that the Utah loss will be the only one in 2014 with teams like California (believe or not, their offense is top-notch and – more importantly – they are in first place in the Pac-12 North), Stanford, Arizona and USC awaiting.

Having said that…

After all of this brutality from yours truly there actually IS a silver lining…

UCLA’s next game will be against an Oregon team whose problems mirror the Bruins’ as they have an extremely sub-par offensive line who got pushed around in their last game by Arizona at home and caused the Ducks’ star quarterback, Marcus Mariota, to be sacked a bunch of times.

Not to mention a defense that was never that great during their recent glory years, giving up many yards and points with an attitude of “It doesn’t really matter, because we’ll just outscore them.”

I, for one, am very much looking forward to what is now a not-as-big-a-marquee-game-as-it could-have-been for one simple reason…

 

I need to see how UCLA will bounce back from the pounding disaster that Utah put upon them.

 

Because with both teams having one loss, this is essentially an elimination game as far as the Pac-12 championship and possible playoff run is concerned.

In other words, the loser’s hopes for glory and national adoration will be pretty much over.

Thank goodness the game’s at home in the Rose Bowl among the Bruin Nation – that’s why I give the Bruins a chance.

By roughly 6:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon – the game’s at 12:30 – I will know if UCLA’s truly a team to be reckoned with…

Or a team that frustratingly disappoints and fails to meet expectations like so many other Bruin gridiron squads in the past.

 

 

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