Skip to content. Skip to departments. Skip to most popular. Skip to footer.

UCLA

All in the Family

Print
Comments

By Bill Plaschke

Published Jul 1, 2007 8:00 AM


They play on a baseball field named after a former student who became the most influential athlete of the 20th century.

They play on a basketball court named after a former coach who became the most influential sports mentor of the 20th century.

art

Lew Alcindor, later to be known as
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and John
Wooden celebrated three
titles in men's basketball from 1967 to
1969.

And, oh yeah, they play on what might be the most recognized football field in the world.

Yet, to this outsider, the geographic center of UCLA athletics isn't in any of these places.

It's next to a hot-dog line. It surrounds a condiment table. It's the corner of Pauley Pavilion next to the seat belonging to John Wooden.

The soul of UCLA athletics can be found in front of that concession stand. It's where history hangs,and legacy lingers, and a heartbeat begins.

Before every Bruin home basketball game, then later during halftime, that area between the concession stand and court is jammed with dozens of Bruin legends, alumni and fans. They stand with their hands in their pockets, and their eyes on the lay-up lines, and they talk.

The subject is always Bruin sports. The passion is always thicker than the ketchup and hotter than the mustard.

They talk about the last game, the next game, this coach, that player, the hot recruit, the recent graduate, anything, everything. They talk and debate and scheme and believe until the buzzer sounds and they are gently urged back to their seats.

Funny thing, but they don't talk only about the major sports. They talk about water polo and gymnastics and once I even heard somebody springing to conclusions about a pole vaulter.

Funnier still, they also don't talk only about winning. They talk about who is improving, who is struggling, who is learning.

Listen long enough, and the rhythm of the talk sounds like a pulse. Hang out long enough, and the connection between the people feels like a family.

art

The 21st century already has seen UCLA
take home 21 NCAA championships in both
men's and women's sports.
Above: 2007 women's water polo Title winners.

When I learned that the Bruins had won their record 100th NCAA national championship, I paused for a moment to realize the magnitude of such an achievement. It is, frankly, unimaginable. One hundred titles in nine men's sports and six women's sports? That's more than just a record. It's a Benjamin-Franklin-sized acclamation for gender equity, sports equity and excellence equity.

I thought about the number. Then I thought about the concession stand.

I thought about how UCLA athletic excellence is not only about kids who sprint and soar, but also those folks with their hands in their pockets.

I thought about how no athletic program can grow and thrive without someone to feed it and hug it and love it. The people in front of that concession stand, like many others who hang at the edges of every UCLA sporting event, are those caretakers.

UCLA's 100 national titles are their triumph, because the unimaginable was imagined here first, in the corner next to the popcorn and soda pop, standing forever, the living eight-clap.

Comments