THREE DECADES IN BRUIN NATION: My Thirty Years (and counting) With UCLA

Anyone who’s ever been involved with UCLA in any way, shape, or form knows what this building is. Photo courtesy of knock-la.com

 

MY CELEBRATION OF BEING A PART OF MY DREAM INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING AS A STUDENT, ALUMNUS, AND A BRUIN SPORTS FAN FOR THIRTY YEARS

 

Saturday, February 13, 1988.

I was at home in Santa Monica, CA, killing the afternoon by watching The Buddy Holly Story, the biopic starring Gary Busey as the rock and roll pioneer from Lubbock, TX who, along with Ritchie Valens and J.B. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, tragically met their fates riding in a small plane on an Iowa cornfield.

The mail came through the slot in the door, which included a thick manila envelope addressed to me.

The contents in that envelope would, at the risk of sounding clichéd and corny, change my life as the letter accompanying the contents said…

“Congratulations! We are pleased to offer you admission to UCLA’s College of Letters and Science…Your application has shown that you are capable of doing college level work.”

To say that UCLA was my dream school would be an understatement, and not just because my mother attended there in the late 60s and early 70s, thus explaining my initial exposure to that place.

And though it was a fair-sized factor, it wasn’t just because I was a big fan of the Bruin football and basketball teams either, the football team in particular in those days as they enjoyed a peak during the 80s, chock full of triumphs over crosstown rival USC and Rose Bowl wins.

Which gave me some nice bragging rights over my ‘SC friends in high school.

As I progressed through high school and Santa Monica College – my high school career wasn’t very good – UCLA didn’t seem to be a realistic goal as horror stories of students with straight A’s getting turned down and the ones that did get accepted suffering through seemingly impossibly high standards in their classes abounded.

 

 

The UCLA Bruin Marching Band, where I was a member from 1988-1991. Photo courtesy of alchetron.com

 

 

Though I did significantly better at SMC, considered one of the best community colleges, what with me getting into Alpha Gamma Sigma (the honor society) and being elected president of the University of California Club – we took a tour of U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Santa Cruz the weekend before – and although I did apply to UCLA and U.C. Santa Barbara, where my mother wanted me to go to,

I had no expectation whatsoever of matriculating in Westwood, as I fully expected to transfer to Cal State Northridge.

So when I got that thick envelope and that “Congratulations” letter, what with me dancing around the living room like an idiot singing the fight song (I didn’t know the words yet) and calling a close friend of mine as well as my grandmother and mother, who was staying with grandma that weekend, to read that congrats letter,

And subsequently photocopying it to give to certain teachers and friends, writing on it, “Well, aren’t you shocked?!”,

Let’s put it like this…

Getting accepted to, attending, and eventually obtaining my bachelor’s degree from UCLA is akin to the nerdiest, dweebiest boy in the 1950s asking Marilyn Monroe to be his girlfriend.

Or the geekiest guy today asking Beyonce to dump Jay-Z and marry him.

And Marilyn and Beyonce saying yes!

That was exactly how I felt when I got that thick envelope from UCLA’s admissions office in Murphy Hall, as I made my induction into Bruin Nation official when I signed my Statement of Intent to Register on the kitchen table that sunny afternoon.

Looking back, I should have known that I had gotten into UCLA due to the information about housing and various other programs that were mailed to me in the days before I got that big letter; that should have tipped me off, but that’s neither here nor there.

 

 

A part of what first attracted me to UCLA: the school colors as shown on these game-worn jerseys from the 1980s. Photo courtesy of sports.ha.com

 

 

Fast forward seven months:

After taking a political science and writing class in UCLA Transfer Summer Program and joining the Bruin Marching Band, playing tenor saxophone and taking part in their week-long band camp where I learned the fight songs and lots of other UCLA stuff,

Though I can’t remember the exact date, I remember the first class I walked into that fall quarter, a sociology class which included none other than superstar quarterback, eventual Super Bowl champion and pro football hall of famer Troy Aikman.

Thus started my thirty years as a full-fledged, card-carrying member of UCLA’s Bruin Nation, with my student days being spent in the marching band, where I flew on a plane for the first time – to Dallas, TX for the Cotton Bowl – saw roughly 90% of the football games at the Rose Bowl (which certainly gave me a thrill to be on the field of that iconic stadium) and home basketball games in Pauley Pavilion, and (again, at the risk of sounding clichéd and corny) made friends whom I’m still friends with today.

It was those friends who, after I achieved what I consider the biggest achievement of my life in getting my degree in history in 1991, got me to join the UCLA Alumni Band that fall, my first game being (unfortunately) a 27-24 loss to Cal.

And it is through the UCLA Alumni Band that I have been able to stay involved with UCLA and Bruin Nation, as I reckon I have played my tenor sax at roughly 175 football games and fifty women’s gymnastics meets; that band has played for that Bruin gymnastics team since 2003.

I have met countless well-known Bruin folks, had classes with basketball standout Tracy Murray and softball legend Lisa Fernandez along with Aikman during my student days, and consider football games at the Rose Bowl – as well as the alumni band – my own personal Kiwanis Club of sorts, seeing kids grow up and have kids of their own among other things.

 

 

The jacket I used to wear all the time during my college days, especially while I matriculated in Westwood. Photo courtesy of worthpoint.com

 

 

Not to mention having the pleasure of witnessing significant UCLA football triumphs such as:

  • The wins over USC in 1996, 2006, and 2012 in particular, the ’96 triumph the only game in the Crosstown Rivalry that went overtime and the ’06 win being the rivalry’s biggest upset, knocking ‘SC out of the national championship game,
  • An exciting win over a very highly ranked Washington team in 1997, and,
  • Big victories over such elite powerhouses as Miami in 1995, Texas in 1998, Alabama and Michigan – where it was 110 degrees and fifteen people had to go to the hospital for heat exhaustion – in 2000, Ohio State in 2001 (about a week after the 9-11 attacks), Oklahoma in 2005, and Nebraska in 2012.

Of course I must mention the 1995 Ed O’ Bannon and Tyus Edney-led basketball title in 1995; I went to the celebration rally in Pauley a few days later, and to this day I haven’t heard that building be as loud since.

As well as the huge stand that the UCLA and Oklahoma gymnastics teams took against sexual earlier this year after their epic meet, which I saw, that was very memorable even though the Bruins lost the meet by the smallest of margins; don’t worry, we paid OU back and won the national championship two months later in a Hollywood-style epic fashion.

And how can I write an article like this without mentioning meeting the greatest coach in the history of sports, John Wooden, and getting his autograph on a program as a student in the band (which I still have!) and on the front page of one of his many books?

I could go on and on; if I wrote about every UCLA experience that I have had, it would end up becoming a full-sized book.

My main point is this…

I know it’s a cliché, but it’s quite difficult for me to believe that I have been a member of UCLA’s Bruin Nation for three full decades.

The time has gone by warp-speed fast, seemingly (I know, another cliché!).

To say that it has been, and will continue to be, a great time; well, that should go without saying.

I only hope that the next thirty years are as good as the first thirty years.

And maybe, just maybe, I can have the pleasure of seeing that Bruin football team win a national championship one day.

 

Oh, before I go, I have to mention two things that I wish I would have done while a UCLA student – I won’t call them regrets:

  • Taken more political science classes, as I liked to debate issues, and,
  • Tried out for the baseball team; I would have been among the first ones cut because of my weak throwing arm (though I could hit some), but at least I could have said that I tried.

 

 

 

I’ve always liked this view of UCLA and downtown L.A. Spectacular, isn’t it? Photo courtesy of sustain.ucla.edu

 

 

Concussions, CTE, & Other Debilitating Injuries: Is Football REALLY Worth It?

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Members of the reborn Los Angeles Rams, back after 21 years in St. Louis, taking the field at the Coliseum. Photo courtesy of ibtimes.co.uk

 

SOME THOUGHTS ON THIS ISSUE AS SUPER BOWL LI AND FOOTBALL SEASON IS NOW HISTORY

 

Now that the confetti’s been cleaned up and the Vince Lombardi Trophy has been awarded in Houston, with the team receiving that trophy embarking on their celebratory parade as I write this,

Over the past several years I’ve watched football games on TV and in person and – sometimes in the back of my mind, sometimes in the front of  it,

Considering all the stories of former stars and heroes who were seen as near-gods in during their time on the gridiron who are…

  • Unable to remember how to get home from the store as well as sometimes needing help remembering their oldest friends and even their own names
  • Can barely walk without significant pain
  • (In some cases) are paralyzed
  • Broke and homeless or even dead by suicide due to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy suffered from all the hitting on the field

I have wondered if playing the game of football is worth it.

Many big names have ended up as statistics as far as CTE and other permanently painful injuries and how it ultimately ruined their lives, Super Bowl champions like Brett Favre, Jim McMahon, and Harry Carson along with ex-Tennessee Titan Frank Wycheck, who has recently stated his fear of having CTE,

As well as guys who are tragically no longer with us such as former Baltimore Colt and Lite Beer commercial legend Bubba Smith,  Oakland Raider Ken Stabler, and notably Junior Seau, the former USC and San Diego Chargers Hall of Famer who shot himself in 2012.

These are and were the athletes who, suffer from bad headaches and memory loss in addition to the sometimes excruciating pain in their joints and various other body parts.

As former New York Giant Carson described it, in his words he “…doesn’t think as clearly as I used to. Nor is my speech (and) selection of vocabulary as good as it used to be.”

To make it clear, contrary to what some may be thinking I do enjoy football, having been a fervent fan of my collegiate alma mater’s team, the UCLA Bruins, for roughly 35 years and having seen them play approximately 130 times.

 

 

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Philip Rivers, the longtime San Diego Chargers QB who will as of next fall be playing his home games in Los Angeles; he’s another guy whose brain and overall health I’m praying for. Photo courtesy of wowtrending.com

 

I completely understand the appeal of football in this country, how it attracts people not only with its violent, battle-like nature and the pomp and pageantry that goes along with it, i.e., cheerleaders and marching bands (which I was involved with in both high school and at UCLA),

But – more importantly – also with the extreme sense of camaraderie that the game provides in the form of tailgating (my favorite part of football) and simply being with people similar to you as far as the team they root for.

I also completely understand the appeal of playing the game as who wouldn’t want to be adored by anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 people on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.  Not to mention all the lovely young women in short mini skirts holding pom-poms showing such enthusiasm over what they are doing on the sidelines.

And the fact that injuries suffered on the gridiron are unfortunate but also an occupational hazard that is more or less inevitable.

However…

The more I hear and see all these tragedies stemming from playing football – I’m praying that newly re-crowned Super Bowl hero and the guy who everyone’s saying is the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, doesn’t end up like Carson or (even worse!) Seau with all the hits he must have taken over his nearly 20 years as a New England Patriot,

The more I’m glad I chose to play baseball as a kid and continue to play softball today, because I know I wouldn’t be able to handle the costs of being a football player.

And the more I’m convinced that in the long run, because of its level of safety, longevity (the average NFL career being four years as opposed to 7-10 years for Major League Baseball) and security (the average salary is higher in MLB than in the NFL) compared to football, baseball is the better game to play.

I suppose that’s my answer as to, as much as I still like it and understand that it’s a forever slice of Americana, if I feel football is truly worth it.

By The Way:  On a side note, I think Brady needs to retire as with all the success and accolades he has collected squatting behind the center and throwing spirals, not to mention the many millions he has earned – enough so that his great-grandchildren will be set for life – what more does he need to prove?!

 

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Two guys whose heads I’m fervently hoping and praying will ultimately be OK shaking hands after the recent Super Bowl; the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan and the Patriots’ now-five time NFL champ Tom Brady. Photo courtesy of inquisitr.com

 

UCLA FOOTBALL: A Review of the 2014 Season

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The Bruins celebrating their 40-35 win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, their second straight season with ten victories

 

 

HOW ONE LONGTIME MEMBER OF BRUIN NATION SAW THE JUST-CONCLUDED CAMPAIGN

 

After seeing that UCLA’s football team ended their 2014 season with a win over Kansas State’s Wildcats in San Antonio, TX, a few things went through my mind:

First, that 10-3, which was the won-loss record that the Bruins ended up with for the second year in a row, looks a heck of a lot better than 9-4 would have looked.

Second, that before this Alamo Bowl I was wondering on a pronounced scale which UCLA team would show up on that second day of 2015: the one that whipped their crosstown private school rivals for the third year in a row in convincing fashion or the one that played worse than a bad Pop Warner team of eight year-olds against Stanford.

It turned out that both Bruin teams showed up against Kansas State as thanks largely to a Wildcat team that didn’t fold its tents, combined with 15 penalties – six of them of the personal foul kind – for a incredible 128 yards and a secondary that was a complete sieve in the second half, Jim Mora’s team had to sweat it out after building a 31-6 halftime lead, leading the fans clad in blue and gold to collectively give a big, fat “Whew!” when the clock hit three zeroes.

Third, and most importantly,

To put it in a concise manner, my conclusion of the UCLA Bruins football program in 2014 is this:

 

These Bruins, by all standards, had a very good season.

They could – and very much should  – have had a GREAT season.

 

In other words, I must be honest and state that considering what the expectations were, I found myself a tiny bit disappointed in UCLA’s ultimate fate in 2014.

Not as disappointed as I would have been if the Bruins had completely blown that lead and lost to Kansas State, but a tiny bit disappointed nonetheless.

Sure, they won ten games in consecutive seasons for the first time in 17 years.

Sure, they won every game they played while wearing their white jerseys and away from the Rose Bowl.

Sure, they’ll have a great chance to finish the season ranked in the nation’s top ten.

Sure, they won consecutive games in the postseason for the first time since their seven-game bowl winning streak in the 1980s.

Sure, they beat that cardinal and gold-colored private school (as per personal policy, I absolutely refuse to mention that institution located just south of Downtown Los Angeles by its name) for the third consecutive year, solidifying its position as the rulers of L.A., complete with the retaining of the Victory Bell and all the bragging rights.

And sure, key players like quarterback Brett Hundley, who became the Bruins’ all-time leader in touchdown passes and rose to second all-time in passing yardage, and linebacker Eric Kendricks, who once again led the Pac-12 in tackles and became UCLA’s all-time leading tackler on his way to winning the Butkus Award as the country’s best linebacker, did what was expected and had great seasons.

All of those things are greatly appreciated and celebrated by me, don’t get me wrong.

 

Stanford v UCLA

Preparing to take the field at the Rose Bowl

 

HOWEVER…

The fact that these Bruins could have done even better, as in:

* Win the Pac-12 South (which I predicted them to, and which they didn’t)

* Possibly beating Oregon to win the Pac-12 championship (which I didn’t think they would do, being that those Ducks walloped Florida State in the recent Rose Bowl and are on an overwhelming roll), and…

* Possibly ending up in a New Year’s Six bowl game (most likely the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State)

leaves a conviction inside of…

Not bitterness, but more of coming up short and a feeling of what might have been if not for losing to Oregon – which in retrospect wasn’t that surprising as I officially pick those Ducks to beat Ohio State and win their first national championship on January 12th – and Stanford, which was particularly frustrating as it was the seventh straight loss to a Cardinal team that frankly wasn’t as strong as in previous years.

The loss to Utah is tied with Stanford for the 2014’s lowest point in my book; giving up ten sacks and missing a winning field goal kick twice clinches that personal view.

Having said all of that, I AM quite proud of the way that the team showed outstanding character in bouncing back after their bumps in the road, going on a five-game winning streak after getting butt hurt by the Ducks and securing the win over Kansas State after not only the Stanford failure, but also doing everything they could to give the Alamo Bowl to Kansas State after an overwhelming first half.

And although Kendricks and especially Hundley will be sorely missed, things don’t look bad in Westwood – at all – as 18 of 22 starters will return, most notably my choice for team MVP, running back Paul Perkins.

Simply put, Perkins was the man as not only did the sophomore win the Pac-12 rushing title with his 1,575 yards and 6.3 yards per carry, he more or less singlehandedly saved the Bruins in San Antonio with his 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and his grab of Kansas State’s onside kick.

He will be desperately counted on in 2015.

As for who will take over behind center starting with the contest against Virginia at the Rose Bowl on September 5th…

I’ll bet anything that I am the only member of the UCLA community who has this opinion due to the imminent arrival of Josh Rosen, the number one ranked high school quarterback in the nation, who many in Bruin Nation expect to start next fall, but the player who I want to see take over for Hundley in 2015 is a redshirt freshman named Asiantii Woulard.

A four-star recruit out of high school, Woulard is thought to have more size than Hundley, with the same running ability and a stronger arm. The fact that he has not completely grasped UCLA’s offensive playbook has held him back and kept him from seeing any playing time as Woulard was the third string QB this season.

I know a lot of people have talked about Jerry Neuheisel, son of the previous UCLA coach, as a possible replacement; he is an outstanding backup who did wonderfully against Texas and will make a great coach one day but as far as being the starter and leading the Bruins to victory week after week…

I’m sorry – I just don’t feel it.

Of course I am happy to see Rosen, from St. John Bosco High, become a Bruin as like Hundley in 2011, he is seen as the future and will undoubtedly be a great quarterback in Westwood, but…

I don’t care one iota how dominating he was in high school or that he will enroll at UCLA this month and participate in spring practice, Rosen will still be a true freshman.

That will mean a transition period and subsequent bumps in the road, which will likely lead to a few losses, which I’m really not sure that the Bruins can afford at this point.

That also mean that Woulard will need to have the best eight months of his life, namely with regard to spring practice and fall camp, if he is to reach his potential and be the man under center.

Will this soon-to-be redshirt sophomore step up, win the starting job, and enable Coach Mora to redshirt Rosen to further prepare him for the rigors of major college football?

Can UCLA continue its general progress and upwards trend in the now-post Hundley Era?

I’m certainly looking forward to finding out…

 

As a final goodbye to one of the Bruins’ all-time greatest players, here’s a highlight video of Brett Hundley in 2013:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014 In The Life of Little Old Me: A Brief Review

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MY LIFE IN THIS ABOUT-TO-BE-CONCLUDED YEAR

(Don’t worry, it won’t take long)

It’s always interesting how things can happen and change in the course of twelve months.

At this time in 2013, I was diligently covering sports – UCLA and otherwise – online for L.A. Sports Hub.com and not worrying that much about the state of my heath, feeling that although I was overweight, I liked food too much to really get serious about doing the things necessary to lose such weight.

Plus, being that I walked everywhere, which is what doctors recommend, and doing upwards of 1,000 crunches and sit-ups a week, I figured that I was healthy enough.

Today, after something happened that made me sick and tired of writing for other people’s websites, I have my own blog which I started on July 7th, which you are reading right now.

And after a scare that made me think I was on the verge of having a stroke – and subsequently, dying – and finding out that I was a ticking time bomb with my blood pressure being off the charts, I finally got serious about my health and getting my weight down to a more appropriate level.

I started doing cardio four and five times a week and changing the ways I ate to the tune of giving up processed meats, cutting way down on sodium, and eating more fruits and vegetables; actually choosing celery and carrots to buy at the supermarket, which is something I had never done before.

Starting all of this in the middle of October, I proceeded to lose over 20 pounds (so far), which proved once and for all that hard work does pay off.

Even during the holidays I tried to be careful in the treats I ate, doing my best to choose only dark chocolate  – which is supposed to be good for you – candy and other various things.

Though I’m not where I need to be yet as far as weight and health, it’s evident that I’m not where I used to be, which I suppose is a good thing.

But enough about that…

I guess I could categorize 2014 as one in which I began to make some changes in my life, and 2015 is a year where I am planning to make even more changes, God willing.

First, I fully plan to have my book detailing my struggles as someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) in the neurotypical world, “MY ASPIE LIFE”, finished and (self) published by the end of July.

Next, I will possibly begin my own independent sports fan page on Word Press, covering the sports scene and various teams in Southern California, thus being able to separate sports from other things and issues on this “Hartland Chronicles” website.

It won’t be a previews/recaps thing like so many other fan pages, but will emphasize commentaries, opinions, and editorials on what’s going on with the state of the different athletic events and teams in the Los Angeles area.

In short, by doing this I am, in a way, starting my own business, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time as I’ve always preferred that over working for someone else.

There are other changes that I hope to make in this new year that will begin in roughly 72 hours, but I prefer to keep those changes private for the moment because they are sort of personal.

All I can do is rely on and trust in God to make these things happen for me.

And speaking of God, the first thing I will do on January 1st, as I’ve been doing for years, is to thank Him for blessing me and allowing me to see another year.

There’s nothing more to say but…

Happy New Year, God Bless, and Keep Holding Good Thoughts For Me.

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This picture doesn’t have anything to do with this post; I just like photos of mountains a lot. Hope you like this shot…

UCLA FOOTBALL 2014: Thoughts on the Bruins’ 3rd Straight Win in the Crosstown Rivalry

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I regret to inform all those students, alumni and fans of that crosstown private school rival of UCLA’s that your request to have this bell painted red (or, “Cardinal”) has been denied.

Bruin Nation will be keeping this bell, and it will remain blue.

 

UCLA WINS, 38-20!

ONE PRIVATE SCHOOL DOWN, ONE TO GO!

 

All right, the 84th meeting of my college alma mater and their rivals from just south of Downtown Los Angeles is in the books.

Like all members of Bruin Nation, I was and am happily ecstatic that our school’s football team came through and showed once and for all who owns L.A. after what the South Bay Daily Breeze’s sports section called a “Crosstown Beatdown” in their 38-20 triumph.

The biggest impression that I gleamed from UCLA’s victory can be summed up in one word…

CHARACTER.

Meaning that after Brett Hundley threw that pick-six on the game’s second play and got the fans of that private school excited, neither he nor anyone else wearing blue and gold panicked or got down on themselves.

They merely answered back with not one but two touchdowns, and never trailed again.

In fact, I got a good feeling about UCLA’s chances when I noticed the entire Bruin team, before the opening kickoff, jumping up and down and basically going crazy on the sidelines in pumping themselves up to way past the moon, while their private school counterparts did nothing of the sort.

I have always taken the time to notice those sort of things as it tells me a lot of a team’s mindset and has always given me a good idea of who will win the game.

And I was ultimately proven right.

Everyone has said that Bruin linebacker Eric Kendricks’ interception in the second quarter with the game still close and that private school driving turned the game around, which I don’t disagree with, but there was one other moment in the contest before that pick that got UCLA going…

Nelson Agholor, the private school’s all-American receiver, muffing a punt with his team up 7-0 and giving the Bruins a very short field, which they took advantage of right away in scoring their first touchdown and tying things up.

That got UCLA in the game, and as it went on it was clear that the Bruins were doing exactly what I felt they needed to do:

1. Pressure Cody Kessler, which they did brilliantly as for the second year in a row, that private school’s quarterback was sacked six times.

and…

2. Sustain drives on offense, which they likewise did a great job, especially in the second half when they got first down after first down, 24 in all.

 

 

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The first of many celebrations from the Bruins during their battle with that private school

 

There were a couple of surprises that I saw upon entering the Rose Bowl on Saturday, the biggest one of all being that the end zones, which has long been a sea of red (or as those private school’s fans call it, “Cardinal”) and gold for this game, had many speckles of blue as the number of private school fans at the game was noticeably lower than in years past.

Which of course I was happily surprised about, but also puzzled as there was as much at stake for that private school as there was for UCLA, and that fan base of theirs always shows up in overwhelming numbers.

Besides getting the win, which enabled my alma mater to keep the Victory Bell – which is awarded to the game’s winner – painted blue, there was one other memorable moment that was, for me, my favorite one of the evening:

Sam Handler, a walk-on player for the Bruins who was injured, standing by the UCLA logo in the middle of the field in order to keep the drum major of that private school’s marching band (who wears a mini-skirt, by the way) from participating in a hugely obnoxious tradition of theirs – stabbing the logo with his sword.

The private school’s band director threw a hissy fit over it, and Handler was eventually escorted off the field, but he succeeded in what he set out to do:

Prevent that feather-helmeted drum major from disrespecting UCLA and the football field it plays on.

It was also great to see the private school’s students and fans heading for the exits at the start of the fourth quarter, essentially waving the white flag like they were the Confederate Army at Appomattox Court House with their beloved team down 38-14.

As much as I enjoyed beating that private school, as I always have as a Bruin, one thing kept me relatively mellow in my happiness and prevented me from doing any wild, over-the-top New Year’s Eve-style celebrating…

The thought of playing – and needing to win – one more game this Friday against another private school, which unlike the one crosstown I don’t mind mentioning their name in the slightest: 

The Cardinal of Leland Stanford Junior University.

I remember VERY clearly two years ago, when the Bruins beat that private school in the rain only to suffer a humongous let down against that Ivy League-type school from just south of San Francisco and lose, starting a three-game collapse which saw UCLA lose for a second time to Stanford and then get beaten up by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl.

If that happens again, no member of Bruin Nation will be more disappointed than I.

Which is why I have devised a special 8-clap for our beloved football team, one which I fully plan to do throughout Friday:

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,  U…C…L…A… U!  C!  L!  A!  DON’T LET DOWN!!

Not that I expect a letdown from this team as with a 6-5 record, Stanford is not the same team as in recent years, but I’ll be honest – I’ll have at least a bit of anxiety to see how our team responds after such an emotional win over that private school.

If UCLA beats the Cardinal – which every Bruin knows will punch our ticket to the Pac-12 Championship Game – that will leave me happier than our win over the private school.

That’s all I have to say about that.

In the meantime, I’ll immensely enjoy wearing my Bruin hear this week.

 

Oh, just two more things…

Here’s one last shot of the Victory Bell painted in glorious blue:

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And please enjoy, compliments of me, the highlights of UCLA’s 31st victory in Crosstown Rivalry history over that private school below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UCLA FOOTBALL 2014: My Predictions for the Crosstown Rivalry Game

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FEATURING HOW I SEE THE GAME UNFOLDING BETWEEN MY COLLEGIATE ALMA MATER AND THEIR PRIVATE SCHOOL RIVALS, PLUS WHAT I THINK THE SCORE WILL BE

 

OK, with 48 hours before kickoff at the Rose Bowl as of this writing, I won’t waste any time; here’s how I see the 84th meeting between UCLA’s Bruins and USC’s Trojans (the last time I mention that name in this post as per personal policy, they shall be referred to as “That Private School”) unfolding:

 

As I had stated in my preview of what is widely known as one of the nation’s elite rivalries, this year’s version of UCLA vs. that private school will feature teams that – at least as far as both player and team statistics – are VERY evenly matched.

In fact, it’s hard for me to remember a Bruin vs. the private school game that is matched up more evenly than this; not in a long time.

That evenness will show on the field this Saturday, particularly with regards to the offenses as while I don’t think it will be a total shootout a la “I went to a football game and a basketball game broke out”,  with one team scoring over 50 points and losing, both UCLA and that private school will get their yards and points.

Cody Kessler, the private school’s quarterback, has had a great season in that he has thrown for five or more touchdowns in a game more than once. I think he’ll have another good day, but won’t go off on the Bruins like he did against Colorado and Washington State.

In last season’s UCLA sacked him six times, which neutralized the passing game as it did in their wins over that private school in 2006 and 2012. I think the Bruins’ front seven – and their entire defense for that matter – has been playing better of late to the point where they will put enough pressure on Kessler to disrupt his throwing, which means that Nelson Agholor and the other private school receivers won’t have the gaudy numbers that they are used to.

I don’t see six sacks, but they will pressure Kessler and bring him down a few times.

They will have to in order to win the game and keep the Victory Bell, which is awarded to the winner, in Westwood and painted blue.

As for UCLA’s offense, like their defensive counterparts they have likewise been playing well of late, mostly because as opposed to earlier in the season when that unit struggled, Brett Hundley has done what has rendered him most effective; run the ball from the quarterback’s spot.

The offensive line, which I covered in savage criticism after giving up ten sacks in their loss to Utah, has improved as they have done a better job in protecting Hundley, which is another key to this game.

As I’ve mentioned, however, the private school player that the Bruins need to watch more than anyone else is a sophomore defensive back named Su’a Cravens.

Cravens’ 14 tackles for loss and five sacks on the year tells me quite plainly that he blitzes a lot; if he does that and gets to Hundley, it could result in some hero-making moments for the guy.

As such, I think UCLA will be aware of that and make sure he’s contained, which will better allow Hundley to run his plays and get the ball to receivers like Jordan Payton.

The running backs? Both of those featured guys, the Bruins’ Paul Perkins and Javorious “Buck” Allen from that private school, will get their yards and will likely go over 100 for the day; they’ve been too good all season not to.

If the game comes down to field goals – which games like this often does – it’s pretty even there too, though Bruin Nation has been holding their collective breath whenever Kai’mi Fairbairn takes the field.

His numbers (14 out of 18 field goal tries) are perfectly respectable, but he still retains an aura of inconsistency that his private school counterpart, Andre Heidari, doesn’t have.

Having said that, I think since Fairbairn, like the rest of his Bruin teammates, has performed better in recent games, I’m calling the kickers even.

 

USC v UCLA

A scene from the last UCLA game against That Private School in the Rose Bowl

 

All right, enough elaboration. Here’s the bottom line…

UCLA and That Private School will engage in a close, hard-fought battle that has a fairly good chance of coming down to the last play or a field goal try.

But because of two factors:

1.  The Bruins having the home field and crowd (yes, I know that the visiting team has won more than their share of games across the country  this year; as evidence of that, UCLA was 6-0 away from the Rose Bowl this season, but still),

and…

2.  Brett Hundley, unlike Kessler, being able to run from under center and get much needed yards and scores in that fashion,

Here is my official prediction of the final score:

 

UCLA BRUINS – 37

THE PRIVATE SCHOOL – 31

 

If the Bruins execute like I know they can, I’m quite confident that this prediction will come true and I’ll be one ecstatic Bruin at around 10:00 p.m. Saturday night.

For the time being , I hope all my fellow members of Bruin Nation enjoy this clip of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UCLA FOOTBALL 2014: My Personal Crosstown Rivalry Story

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My former marching band, as they look today

REMINISCING ABOUT A PREVALENT MEMORY REGARDING MY ALMA MATER AND THEIR CROSSTOWN RIVALS, AS THE 84TH MEETING OF UCLA AND USC IN FOOTBALL WILL COMMENCE THIS SATURDAY

November 14, 1988 (I think).

It was my first year not only as a UCLA student after transferring from a junior college, but my first year in the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, where I played the tenor saxophone.

As I was a longtime Bruin fan who was realizing my longtime dream of becoming a Bruin, I was excited about experiencing in person, for the first time, the rivalry that my institution of higher learning has with a certain private school located 12 miles to the east in Los Angeles’ inner city, having watched the two football teams do battle on TV since I was less then ten years old.

Not to mention seeing in person what I had been bragging about during my high school days as UCLA beat that private school in my 10th, 11th and 12th grade years.

A quick note before I continue:  I refer to the University of Southern California – USC – as a “private school” because it is. Those three letters put together will not be written again in this post from this point, nor will their nickname, the “Trojans”.

All right, now that that disclaimer has been taken care of…

I was riding with some fellow UCLA band members to the private school to partake in a flag football game called the “Band Bowl”, which the marching bands of the two schools have played in since the 1950s during the week of the “real” game.

It was usually held on the Sunday before, but due a prior commitment from the private school’s band, the game had to be held on a Wednesday night.

As I was and still am a big guy, I was going to the game as a member of the Bruin band football team but because I had fallen on a broken beer bottle and subsequently suffered a cut on the bottom of my toe that required stitches and a small cast, I was on the “Injured Reserve” list, so to speak, and was attending the game solely for moral support.

I was told by friends in the UCLA band about the evil nastiness that the private school band exuded with regards to us, but it was that evening where I would experience it face to face.

We arrived at the private school campus’ track field, getting off our yellow school bus (“Let’s go back to the 6th grade, shall we?” our captain quipped), and prepared to play the game, which much like our real football team with the full scholarships was important on a pronounced scale to everyone involved, on both sides.

The game begins, and we played very well; I believe we led the whole way and ended up winning 21-7.

It was during halftime that I saw, for the first time, the way that private school band acted like a combination of Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters and Satan-led devils…

After the private school band played – well, I don’t recall what they played but I do remember that it sounded rather bad – they turned around to face our side and screamed at the top of their lungs, with their middle fingers proudly pointed in the cool L.A. night…

“F*** the Bruins!!!”

While getting into our band’s faces – those who showed up to support us – with what I’m sure was their drunken breath, yelling various versions of “F*** You!”  for roughy 15 minutes until it was time for the second half.

Although I was on the other side of the sideline from that evilness, I’m sure that saliva from that private school band’s mouths found the faces of at least some of our band members.

There was one particular member of that private school band whose image I haven’t forgotten after more than 25 years – he had a long, scraggly beard that would be made popular by pro athletes today, who was obviously smashed on various liquors as his face was as red (or “Cardinal”, as they call it) as his school’s primary color.

I was surprised that he didn’t vomit on the poor Bruin band girl whose face he so obnoxiously got into; I believe she was a piccolo player who had brought a large Bruin teddy bear to the game.

Other hate crime-level deeds such as water balloons being thrown from a building that stood behind us which was intended to humiliate, which our band director chased away, marred the whole evening, which would have been a much more bitter memory if we hadn’t won the game.

As such, this was an annual tradition with that private school band, I would later find out.

But it wouldn’t be until 12 years later, having long since received my degree, when this private school bigotry would reach the last straw when – to make a long story short – UCLA’s instrument and equipment truck was broken into during a Band Bowl game on that private school campus, $30,000 worth of instruments, uniforms and other stuff were stolen and a tenor sax case, when recovered, had a “Stop Hate” sticker ripped off and replaced by, crudely written in black marker, the word “Jew”.

Sounds like Germany in 1938, don’t you think?

That solidified my dislike for that private school in South L.A. to nuclear-like proportions; not that is was much less to start with.

And because of that hate crime, which is precisely what it was, the Band Bowl has not been held since as the private school band’s leaders feared retaliation.

There are quite a few other incidents that occurred with that private school over the years since that day in 1988, some that directly involved me and some that did not, like that instrument truck incident.

However, If I discussed every one of those episodes, the size of this article would approach that of “War and Peace”.

So I’ll end this post with those two prevalent memories of the longtime animosity between the two major college marching bands that call America’s largest city west of the Mississippi River home.

As well as announce that my official preview of the big showdown between UCLA and that private school and a separate piece that will feature a prediction of the game, which will include a score, will appear on this blog later this week.

For the record, my preview of this 84th renewal of the Crosstown Rivalry will be on this site Wednesday, while I’ll give my prediction – including a score – in a post on Thursday.

I certainly hope you are all looking forward to reading what I think the keys to this game will be and how I see it unfolding…

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What UCLA does to protect their Bruin Bear statue; because vandals from that private school have ripped this cover to deface the statue, thus committing a felony, it is now covered in a big plywood box.