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September 17, 2007

Sons (and Daughters) of Westwood

Two administrative notes to introduce today’s post …

* When I changed the domain name of this blog a few months ago, I abandoned the host site where I had parked a stash of older and/or non-running related articles. It was a site that my wife created while I was waiting to see if this whole blogging thing was going to work out. Anyway, there were a handful of things there that I was reluctant to see disappear into the cyber-ether – so from time to time over the next few months, I’ll post some of those articles here to give them a permanent home. Secondly ...

* Earlier this month, my wife and I took two of our kids to the UCLA-Stanford football game, which was won convincingly by our Bruins. Here is a scene from after the game:

I love this picture for a lot of reasons; I could probably write a whole post about it. But that’s not what I’m doing today.

The excursion was my 6-year-old daughter’s first college football game, but my son’s second. After his first game two years ago, I wrote an article about my Circle of Life-like feelings about UCLA athletics for my old website, which follows below.

I meant to post it immediately after this year’s game, but some other thoughts were more prevalent on my mind, and before I knew it, two weeks slipped away. In hindsight, the timing for this post is good for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s a reminder to me that all of the hopes and aspirations I have for my son are just as applicable to his younger sisters, and, just as importantly, 2) It helps me pretend that UCLA’s horrible showing last Saturday never happened.

The only thing left to do was modify the title of the article: It was originally called Sons of Westwood, after UCLA’s fight song. The new title is above, and the article is below.


Sometimes during my childhood when I couldn’t sleep at night, I would lay awake listening to the television in the living room. The house was small enough that I could easily recognize programs by the sounds coming through the wall.

And whenever there was a basketball game on, I would creep out of my bedroom to try and watch it.

My father liked watching UCLA basketball, and frequently let me stay up past my bedtime to watch the games with him. Although their amazing string of national championships had recently ended, UCLA still had very good teams. It seemed like they won every game I saw, so of course they became my favorite team.

Those evenings left a lasting impression on me, even as I grew older and we moved away from southern California. The juvenile pleasure of staying up past my bedtime, the time spent alone with my dad after my sister and mother were in bed, and the inevitable success of my favorite team were an irresistible combination.

After those nights, there was never a time in my life when I didn’t want to go to UCLA. Luckily, about a hundred different things fell into place for me and I was accepted there after high school. And although there were hard times, I wasn’t disappointed for an instant.

I competed in intercollegiate athletics, and developed into a marathon runner. I made a lot of friends, gained an appreciation of diversity, and received professional training for what has become a satisfying career. (There may have been some parties along the way, too – but for some reason I don’t remember them very well.)

As a bonus, I also met the girl who would later become my wife. All in all, I’d say my time at UCLA was well-spent.

In his book Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, Warren St John examines the roots of his passion for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and comments that our fate as sports fans is largely determined by means beyond our control: where we are born, events we are exposed to, and the passions we observe in those around us – especially our parents.

Occasionally, once your sports loyalties are cast, other pieces of your life fall into place around them.

Some are small things like whom we align ourselves with or hold at arm’s length. In St John’s home state, it’s common for Tide fans and Auburn fans to inspire feelings of mutual hatred, at times escalating to violence, based on nothing more than who they root for and what color they wear.

Others are big decisions like where to attend college or settle a family. Every life experience has a ripple effect on countless others, in ways we sometimes don’t realize until many years later, if ever.

All of which brings us to last weekend. My wife (UCLA ’92) and I (UCLA ’93) took our 7-year-old son to his first college football game, to watch UCLA play on the road against Stanford. The Bruins had lost their last six Bay Area games, so we weren’t exactly brimming with confidence of a victory.

Yet we listened to UCLA’s fight song in the car, sat in the visitors’ student section of the stadium, and practiced the school’s 8-clap cheer. He wore a UCLA cap, and instantly classified people dressed in yellow and blue as sympathizers to the cause.

The Bruins played like dogs for most of the game, but staged a furious comeback in the fourth quarter while our student section worked itself into a frenzy. Our son began chanting along with the crowd, jumping up and down on the bleachers, yelling and exchanging high fives with strangers.

All the while, his parents were right alongside him, acting like complete lunatics.

The noise in the stands was deafening, and when UCLA eventually won the game in overtime, our section of the stadium erupted like a party with 5000 friends. It had to be a pretty impressive scene for a seven year-old.

In the days since, life has been pretty much business as usual for our family. Our son has told people about the game, but not with the reverence that would indicate any sort of life-changing experience for him.

Still, I wonder if we just triggered some chain of future alliances and decisions for him.

Could my father have known that by letting me watch those basketball games, he was influencing who I would cheer for, where I would live, or who I would marry?

I’m certain the he had no way of knowing - otherwise, he would have taken me to a football game at USC, one of his alma maters. Just think: if more of my sleepless nights had been in football season instead of basketball season, I might have picked Tommy Trojan as my mascot over Joe Bruin. How frightening.

It’s clearly pointless to speculate about these things, but intriguing nonetheless. My wife and I don’t know which experiences will shape our son the most profoundly. And we have only a limited amount of time to guide him. Before long he will certainly chart a course for himself, either close to home or far away, in his parents’ footsteps or on a path of his own.

When he does, his mother and I won’t care what direction his life takes him, as long as he’s doing the driving. If he’s content, then we’ll be satisfied that we’ve raised him well.

Just so long as he never cheers for USC.


Addy 9/17/07, 2:46 PM  

As a Daughter of California (CAL 07) who has a sister that graduated from UCLA, I heartily support your UC Pride :). And thank goodness there were no childhood dreams of Trojans (or trees/the color cardinal for that matter!!)

rick 9/18/07, 10:29 AM  

I never made it through the university experience, transferred out of University of Hawaii after my third year to attend art school. My last year the Rainbows won 10 games and went to the Holiday Bowl where they also won. People in Hawaii are crazy about their Rainbows. Here in SF, Rainbows are a total different thing. These days they are simply known as the warriors.

Checked that old pic of Andrew from one of your Big Sur posts. I met him after the race, he was too fast for me during the race to be running miles with him. We talked at the finish over chili. He looked exhausted but I think some of that was disappointment. Sarah of PCTR said he got lost on the course. He could have very well won that race.

Dying Water Buffalo 9/18/07, 12:58 PM  

Please write an entire post about that pic... I love it! And would love to hear it.

My sports loyalties have been beaten into me by my father, a Notre Dame alum.

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