A Bruin Father's Day Story


By SamoRed

Please share this with your Bruin children and especially your Bruin dads.
Happy Father's Day!

Part One

This story sort of came back to me while I was sitting around our house with my kids one day when they were both home with the flu. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time, but your mind begins to wander during the dead time between the end of Blue’s Clues and the start of the Rug Rats.

I bet you didn’t know that there are not enough blue and yellow pegs to make a decent UCLA-script logo with a Lite Brite, but there are enough reds to do a killer, block-letter USC SUCKS. I wondered for a while if it was bad parenting to teach this phrase to a three-year old, finally deciding that a simple SC SUCKS was better, because it came complete with exactly the type of rhythmic chant children love and will repeat at parties and stuff.

As I chanted, Henry clapped and squealed with delight; I couldn’t have been prouder. Suddenly, we were interrupted by a crash emanating from the kid’s room. Dashing in, I found that Michael misfired a jumpshot with his blue and gold Steve Lavin Camp basketball, knocking over a lamp in the process and also bringing on a nasty, Detroit Mercy flashback. I asked him to join his brother and I in the other room.

He was very sorry about the lamp; I told him it was okay so long as he remembered to "listen", to "play through referees’ calls " and to "share the juices and the basketball." Like everyone else, he had no idea what this meant, so he changed the subject by glancing down at the Lite Brite and asking "What does "SC SUCKS" mean.

Ah, youth. Of course, it was a question I had been expecting since he was born. I always figured that when he was old enough, we’d sit down in front of the television on the third Saturday in November and have that little talk that Bruin dads have been having with their kids for generations. But so soon? How could I adequately explain the concept to a seven-year old boy, even one who could read at a sophomore-at-SC level, a kid whose grades and SAT scores have never been called into question by Notre Dame. It would be hard to accurately explain "SUCKS", due to the subtle subtext, to say nothing of the actual overt text.

"SC" was even tougher.

He became frightened when I told him that "UCLA" was where great-grandpa went when he died, but "SC" was where big brothers who picked on their little brothers might go, as some of the religious implications were as beyond his first grade mind as they would be to R.J. Soward. It finally began to make some sense when I told him that "UCLA" was another word for "North Pole" and that is where Santa kept his toy factory, while "SC" was where the people of Whoville sent the Grinch after they indicted and convicted him for stealing Christmas. (Needless to say, if the Grinch was really from "SC", he would have been acquitted of stealing the holiday and later found civilly liable for the same action.)

The entire conversation was filled with irony for me. Because unbeknownst to my son, his birth was in some ways connected to - in some ways responsible for - our current eight-game winning streak over the denizens of Troy.

Part Two

My wife (Class of ’83) and I (’85) met in October, 1985 on the roof of the old GSM building. Most people didn’t know that the MBA-crowd convened once a week for a beer bust, the Budweiser supplied by a company recruiting potential grads. She was there because she worked at the school and I was there because, well...I was there. We talked:

Her: "You like football? I played clarinet in the marching band."
Me: "Marching band?"
Her: "You know, the band that went out on the field and did formations at half-time of all the games."

I had no idea. I always spent half-time in one of two lines. It wasn’t until they dried-up the Rose Bowl that I understood what she was talking about. Our first date was homecoming versus Oregon State - a sure-fire win (41-0) which got the relationship off to a good start.

The first time we, um, uh, "made love" was New Year’s Eve. It was great, it was romantic. As our relationship progressed, I would celebrate the completion of such an act by "rolling over and going to sleep." But not this time, the first time. Wiping the sweat from my forehead I glanced at the clock. Proudly, I rose from the bed...

...got dressed, hopped in my car and headed for Pasadena. Met some buddies, partied through the night. Checked the parade, went in to the Rose Bowl, saw Eric Ball scoot for 227 and four scores as the Bruins kicked Iowa’s over-rated, heavily-favored, Chuck-Longed ass. Eventually, I made it home, told her she was great.

Our courtship progressed from there. Holding hands as Aikman and Company finally stomped Nebraska, vacations to Phoenix (beat ASU 31-23 in the desert rain) and Seattle (Aikman to Reggie Moore beats the Huskies 24-17). Of course, we shared the heartache as well. Peete grabbing a face mask. Wellman’s out of bounds. So was Affholter.

And we still never mention Shawn Wills.

We were married in February, 1990, during the National Signing Period, getting hitched just about the same time J.J. Stokes inked his LOI.

The following Fall was the darkest period in our relationship. Maddox... Marinovich...a few more seconds... (sorry, it’s just too painful). All I remember are the phone calls, the never ending phone calls, from my SC "friends", some just whispering "45-42", before hanging up.

For days, even weeks, my wife tried to console me, to restore my damaged manhood. Nothing worked. Whereas in the past I could always bounce back and "rise" to the occasion, I was now as unable to perform as Rob Johnson in a big game, as ineffective as Terry Donahue’s play calling inside the five against Washington State, as impotent as a TFO-regular trying to explain away The Streak. I felt as empty as John Robinson’s candy dish. Even my sleep was tormented, I would wake up screaming, "Turner was hurt", then watch the game tape until dawn.

Finally, I sought help at the UCLA Medical Center (the finest such institution in the West.) As my doctor (’65, ’69) listened to my story, he began to slowly nod his head. He’d been in Westwood for many years and he’d seen this type of thing before.

It seemed I suffered from a complicated malady, in many ways as difficult to understand as Mike Garrett keeping his job. It had something to do with Trojans being a type of condom and the trauma of such a tough loss was subconsciously imposing a form of psychological birth control. There was no medicinal cure, he told me, but that understanding the problem was halfway to getting over it. Unlike being a Trojan, it would not last for life.

That night, my wife and I decided to try again. She looked damn sexy in nothing but her white, Carnell Lake road jersey (don’t laugh, it was mesh). We cuddled up and popped in a tape of the ’85 Fiesta Bowl. I don’t to this day know if it was the wine or John Lee’s last second field goal, but later that night...okay...I’ll say it:

I was a man again.

As an added bonus, she got pregnant that very night. We felt blessed, both by the new baby on the way and the fact that Tommy Maddox would be back, with a year as a starter under his belt. She was due, literally, the third weekend in November. But something went wrong in mid-October, even worse than losing to friggin’ Cal, 27-24, at home. My wife went into premature labor six weeks early and she was rushed to the hospital.

I was damn scared. I had planned to be right there with her during labor, but this was intensive care and they shooed me out. I didn’t know what to do, wandering the halls of the hospital until I found myself outside the chapel. I went inside and began to pray.

I had never prayed so hard. All I wanted was for my wife and my child to be safe and healthy. I prayed for a long time. I struck every imaginable, Faustian bargain, offering every thing I had, pledging a lifetime of goodness and devotion if everything would just turn out all right.

I prayed so long, I may have mentioned that it would be cool if the baby was a boy.

I might have prayed so long that I may have mentioned that it would be nice if UCLA never lost to USC again.

Okay, it was blasphemous, I know. My wife was suffering in the labor room, her life and that of our child’s hanging by a thread. But I was in that chapel a long time and I guess, in a moment of weakness and just to break-up the monotony, I figured I’d throw in one of my old standards.

Suddenly, I was snapped out of my reverie by a knocking at the door. It was the nurse, I was needed in the labor room. She was saying something as we ran, but I never heard a word. I burst through the door and looked around. There in the corner was my wife...

...and she was holding my son. One-foot-six, four-and-a-half pounds (throws left, but I didn’t find that out ‘til later) of healthy baby boy.


Of course, by now you know the rest of the story. My prayers were answered, in more ways than one.

So, while the rest of you worried when John Barnes got the start, I just smiled. When we fell behind by 17 and some of you started to leave the building, I just sat back and relaxed. I knew we would find a way to win.

And now, you do, too.