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Interview with a Trophy


By Mark Davis

Published Jan 1, 2007 8:00 AM

Ah, to be a trophy much desired, bright and new. To be fought for and won on the field of competition. To be displayed proud and glorious in the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame.

Oh, but shines tarnish. Brightness dims. Glory fades. And attentions turn to current contests and newer champions.

What, then, of a conference trophy years after the battle is won and the victory all but forgotten? For UCLA, such faded beauties find themselves deep inside a crowded campus utility closet as part of a most unusual retirement community — Tarnish Manor.

We visited recently and found one such old glory, still proud and strong, if a little worse for wear. The trophy for the 1956 Men's Basketball Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship told us why she believes the best days are still ahead for the residents of Tarnish Manor.

You guys have some pretty shabby digs.

Pardon me, sir, but I am not a guy. I am a lady, thank you.

A lady?

Naturally. Why else would men compete, if not to win the hand, or handle, of a beautiful lady?

Naturally. But this place — you're among vacuums, toilet paper rolls, empty boxes, exposed ductwork ...

Merely a temporary dwelling while we await our triumphant returns. And a true gentleman would refrain from drawing attention to life's little indignities.

Well, I'm a reporter, and …

Say no more. I remember when the likes of you swarmed around us, clawing for photographs! Then silence. The long, awful silence.

There seems to have been some neglect.

Neglect is a pretty word for what has transpired. We are all a bit worse for wear, fallen from our pedestals in a painfully literal manner, some of us dented, chipped or cracked. My poor dear friend over there, classically designed in the 1920s by a famous French artist, has retained her elegance, though she lacks an essential appendage. But it's not easy. I myself have sustained a spot of water damage.

Oh no, I hadn't noticed.

You see, you can be both reporter and gentleman.

How did you all end up here?

Each of us had her or his time in the glass case, the Hall of Fame. But the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 hit us hard. After that, most of us were tucked away to be dealt with later. Meanwhile, our heroic Bruins continued to bring home prizes, and the display cabinets grew ever more crowded.

That must be sad for you — to go from glory to this.

One adapts. And a place in the sun may yet await us all. A good 70 of us were retrieved recently, restored to our original splendor and sent off into the world. Some are serving UCLA as goodwill ambassadors in coffee shops and cafés in China, as that nation prepares for the Olympics. Others found homes in athletics office suites. Our caretaker, a kind gentleman named Kevin Borg, is eager to find proper homes for all of us.

No jealousy of newer trophies with more important titles?

I believe I speak for us all when I say that kind of misguided snobbery is beneath us. Indeed, we all look forward with eager anticipation to that happy day when our newest addition joins us — when our Bruins bring UCLA's 100th NCAA title to Westwood.



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