Published Apr 1, 2007 8:00 AM
From guys in funny hats to sports lovers who dress up in costume for women’s volleyball games, UCLA inspires its own kind of fanatics. We celebrate their support and salute some of the more imaginative Bruin die-hards.So you think you're a fan?
You go to all the UCLA home football games, never miss a UCLA men's basketball game on television? You attend the occasional volleyball match, gymnastics meet or softball game? You revel in each Bruin victory and suffer with each Bruin loss?
Sure, you're a fan. But in the world of UCLA athletics, there are fans and there are … spectacular spectators.
There's the highly visible fan, exemplified by alumni cheerleader Geoff Strand '71, who can be found at the Rose Bowl on football Saturdays exhorting "every man, woman and child" to stand up and scream their lungs out. There's the behind-the-scenes fan, who gets his or her fix of Bruin sports on BruinReportOnline.com (BRO), owned by Tracy Pierson '83. BRO typically gets 300,000 page views and thousands of message board posts each day. It's a Web site for the "knowledgeable, but also slightly obsessed, fan," Pierson says. Yes, UCLA fans run the gamut, and some of them reach new heights to prove their loyalty, as you'll see when you meet the following folks. These Bruins—while completely different—are all true blue.
On a cool January night, 16 members of The Den, UCLA's official student fan group, are huddled together in a small conference room in the J.D. Morgan Center to discuss upcoming business. If you've gone to any UCLA sporting event in the last few years, or even if you've just watched some events on TV, you've seen The Den. The blue-shirted students can be seen jumping and cheering in the bleachers at Pauley Pavilion, in the seats of the Rose Bowl and at just about every other venue that supports UCLA athletics.
On this night, there are many agenda items, so President Matt Crisafulli keeps the meeting moving at a brisk pace. "To avoid using profanity on the referees, we need ideas," he begins. "We need chants that are effective, not lame."
Senior Christo Rose, sporting blue hair, offers, "How about, 'does your wife know you're screwing us?' " Everyone laughs. A female Den member suggests a chant she heard at another game: "I'm blind, I'm deaf, I want to be a ref."
Denizens obviously have fun, but it's not as easy as it looks. Crisafulli and his executive board—athletics coordinator Matt Monges, communications coordinator Bryan Parker and treasurer Brian Gay—organize a group of about 100 hardworking members who attend meetings, write for the group's newsletter, The Dirt From the Den, and serve as liaisons between The Den, the different sports teams and the Athletics marketing department. More than 500 students are on The Den's mailing list.
"Every year, we recruit great athletes who will carry on our championship traditions. In a sense, they are our 'future,' " says Dan Guerrero '74, director of intercollegiate athletics. "An equally important component to our success are the fans who support and attend Bruin athletic events, starting with our students. They, too, represent the future. Organizations like The Den germinate and promote the enthusiasm and loyalty that we trust will remain with our alumni long after they've exchanged backpacks for briefcases."
"The Den is the soul of our team," adds an appreciative Alfred Aboya, sophomore forward/center on the men's basketball team. "Our team feeds off of their enthusiasm. I think they're the best fans in the country."