Every member of UCLA’s Bruin Nation who has been to Bruin football games, whether he or she is a current student, or is from the class of 1950 (or even earlier than that), or was in Westwood in the years between then and now, has a story about the first time he or she saw their beloved Bruins on the gridiron.
This is mine…
It was on September 3, 1988, two days before Labor Day.
I was taking summer session classes as part of the Academic Advancement Program’s Transfer Summer Program, a sort of spring training for new UCLA students who transferred from other colleges to get them acclimated to what UCLA classes were like. I had realized my dream of being accepted to the school – my dream school, in fact – after I had began my undergraduate career at Santa Monica College, and I took the opportunity to experience what classes at UCLA were like as well as get some credits before fall quarter started.
Part of the TSP was doing fun, outside-the-classroom things, and they made plans to go to the Bruins’ first football game at the Rose Bowl, which being the fanatic Bruin football fan that I was, well, it was like a five-year old going to Disneyland for the first time; I was that jazzed.
So there we all were, on the rooter bus pulling out from Lot 32 in Westwood and heading north on the 405 with other students, turning right on the 101 and rolling along to see our heroes commencing with their season.
When the bus approached the Linda Vista off ramp, I looked to my left and there it was – the Rose Bowl, sitting there among a big stretch of grass looking all majestic. As I was seeing it for the first time, my mind flashed back to all the New Year’s Day Rose Bowls that I had seen on TV, and I couldn’t help thinking, “I can’t believe that I now get to be a part of this!”
So we park with all the other buses, go in the gate, walk in the narrow tunnel – tunnel seven to be precise – come out the other side, and you know what my first thought was upon seeing that iconic stadium and field for the first time ever in person?
“Gee, it looks a lot bigger on TV.”
Even though at the time the place had a capacity of over 100,000 people; sure it was huge, and I was appropriately impressed, but it just seemed bigger when I watched all of those New Year’s Day games on TV. I suppose that was a bigger version of the adage, “The camera adds ten pounds”.
Anyhow, we sit in our seats in the student section – as it turns out it would be the only time I would ever sit there, for reasons I will state in a bit – when this middle-aged lunatic in glasses with little blue shorts, a blue and gold-striped sweater, and a blue cap, stood on a podium on the sideline behind the 50-yard line and screamed with furor:
“I WANT EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD!!
“GIVE ME A ‘B’ “!!!
And you know we fully well did, along with the rest of the Bruin spellout as I encountered Geoff Strand ’71, the greatest cheerleader of all time and arguably the chairman of Bruin Nation, for the first time. Like countless other Bruins, he would be an inspiration to me and a significant reason why I still go to games all these years later.
As for the game, well, there really wasn’t much to talk about there. We were playing San Diego State and after our defense gave the Aztec offense a three-and-out, I was looking forward to seeing Troy Aikman, the quarterback who, like me, was a transfer student and was on a lot of pre-season All-American lists.
Little did I know that the eventual three-time Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall-of-Famer would be in my sociology class a few weeks later.
Yes, I was anticipating seeing the great Aikman, as I referred to him then, until Darryl Henley took the punt back 75 yards or so for the touchdown.
The game was pretty much over after that as we scored at will and ended up routing the Aztecs, 59-6, on the way to an eventual #1 ranking – the last time the Bruins achieved that standing in the polls – a 10-2 record and ending the season ranked 6th in the country.
The two other memories of that evening were participating in the card show at halftime and having the head of the Rally Committee practically on his knees begging us to “Please do not throw your cards, Bruins – they can seriously hurt someone!”, and seeing the marching band in the stands to my right and slightly below. I had auditioned and was accepted to that Solid Gold Sound a few weeks before, and two weeks later I would officially be a member of the UCLA Bruin Marching Band and participating in their band camp, learning “Sons of Westwood and “Mighty Bruins” on my tenor saxophone, hence not sitting in the student section anymore.
All-in-all, it was a good introduction to Bruin Nation and – yes, I know it’s a cliche – something that I’ll always remember as 2013 will mark 25 years as a member of UCLA Bruin Nation for me.
It’s been a great ride, to say the least, and provided that this current football team reaches their potential, I’m looking forward to even more great memories and thrills in what is considered the greatest stadium in America.
I know that sounds a bit pompous, but still…
Anyhow, we find