Watch out. You might get what you’re after: Something’s in the air tonight, as the Bruins want to set Westwood on fire (“Figuratively” says Neuheisel) after a win on Saturday night
Remember 13-9? Remember how you felt that day, and the day after, and the day after that? A lot of the Bruin players do, and Rick Neuheisel does too, and they all want to feel that way again, after Saturday night’s game at the Mausoleum.
Back then, NO ONE expected the Bruins to pull off the miracle upset. This year, the spread is “only” 13, and lots of people expect UCLA to make a game out of it, including everyone in Westwood on Monday night (and lots of people off of Figueroa too). UCLA held their annual BeatSC Bonfire and Rally Monday Night, and thanks to a renewed sense of confidence — and to Neuheisel being Neuheisel — it was one of the best bonfires ever, and I’ve been to about a dozen of them (but not last year).
The organizers did four wise things before this year’s event even started: 1) They held the festivities on the Intramural Field right next to Pauley; 2) They held UP the festivities from the scheduled 9:30pm start until the Basketball game ended at 10-ish so that they could include all those extra Bruin fans; 3) They sent me a VIP seating pass, so I (and all other alumni who are fanatical enough to attend a bonfire) could sit in front of the massive ocean of students; and 4) For us VIP’s, they brought in a few 6-ft. Subway Subs.
Number 5 could be that there was no terrible, screeching “band” playing as a lead-up to the rally, but I did kind of miss the “live concert” atmosphere that the live bands used to provide, so let’s call that a push.
They started off the evening with a Modern Dance Troup made up of students, and then a group of Student (a capella) Singers who had won Spring Sing, and both acts were big hits, for students and alumni (including me) alike.
Then it was announced that the UCLA Spirit Squad was going to come out. The lights went down, but nothing happened. Then the emcees came out and introduced the Chancellor instead. Chancellor Block came out with his wife, and even though I was mad at the drop-off from Katie, Elise, Brianna, Michelle, et al to Mrs. Block, I still loved what the Chancellor had to say. Actually, I am happy that he even is aware that there is a game, let alone a bonfire. But what he said is that he is all about PROVIDING THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE, and that since losing is the best learning experience, he wanted to give sc their 4th loss of the season, so they can learn A LOT.
Instead of parading out every Bruin athletic team on campus to each lead an 8-clap, they paid tribute to all of the Sports by doing a really stupid little game. They had one or two members of several different teams, including Football’s Jonathan Franklin and Jeff Baca, make themselves dizzy, do hopscotch, wrap themselves up in plastic wrap, pop a balloon between their bodies, and dunk their faces into cream pies. It looked like a wild Japanese game show, on purpose. I thought it was stupid, and that the Football players were being too un-macho and un-dignified. I also thought the crowd quickly lost interest, and couldn’t really tell what was going on. Nonetheless, it was still pretty funny to see a couple of guys’ faces covered in whipped cream, and the athletes seemed to have a good time, so even though it had nothing to do with beating sc in Football, I guess I’ll shut my pie-hole about it.
However, I can’t let the emcees slide. I wish the SAA would give the reins of this show to Geof Strand (who was conspicuously absent) instead of these two students who do lame skits, corny jokes, and pretty much take away from the momentum of the night. In fact, during one of their longer bits, students in the back just started chanting stuff on their own, as if nothing was going on up on stage at all.
But remember about 4 or 5 years ago, when some idiot complained, about MY complaints, about a poorly-organized scrimmage? Yeah, sure you do. Well, I don’t want to wake that dormant volcano. To re-iterate: It was a GREAT Bonfire.
And the second-best part of the Night? They finally brought out the Spirit Squad. Sadly, they only did a couple of numbers and then disappeared. Maybe it was a long night, with the Basketball game and all. And, they could have done 45 minutes, and I still would have wanted more. I remember one year where the SAA presented some trophies, and the Cheerleaders were the presenters. Nothing like that this year, but at least since I was in the front row Of the “VIP” seats, the flash actually worked a little bit, for once, and some of the photos came out halfway-decent. You’ll see.
Can you believe that I said they were the SECOND-best part? That’s because Rick Neuheisel knows how to steal the spotlight.
When Rick came out with the team, he went into a sort of musical monologue, spoken-word version of “Something’s in the Air Tonight,” like he was channelling Phil Collins. The monologue matched up with the song, so that Rick echoed Phil on the word “Remember.” It could not have been cooler. He said that the team uses that song to get ready for a game, and that everyone needs to really come together as one entity in order to get the job done. The song gets them all on the same page — and reminds them that they want to “remember” that 13-9 feeling.
Rick introduced Seniors Reggie Carter, Alterraun Verner, Terrence Austin, and Chane Moline, who all said a few words. Reggie started, but when he referenced some recent trash-talking from trojan Taylor Mays, Neuheisel jumped in and stopped him before he gave troy any bulletin board material. Carter then referenced a couch that someone set on fire in Westwood to celebrate 13-9, and said that THIS year, he wants to burn Westwood down, to which Neuheisel again quickly jumped in and said “Figuratively!! Chancellor, there will be no vandalism!!”
Later, Neuheisel brought up one JUNIOR — Brian Price. of course, I knew what Neuheisel was thinking, so I started the obligatory “One More Year!” cheer that college fans use to try to persuade players to stay in school instead of turning Pro early. No one knows if Price is staying or going, but there is absolutely no doubt that Price could play on Sundays right now. “That being said,” [wink, wink] I obviously hope that he stays, as he could be the difference between a good D and a bad D next year.
When it was time to actually set the torch to the bonfire, the speakers blared Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing.” The Bruin fans — most of whom weren’t born when that song was recorded (but they heard it on “The Soprano’s” weak Finale) — must REALLY BELIEVE in the Bruins’ chances this weekend, because the whole crowd actually started singing along. I haven’t heard that many people singing along to a Journey song since 1980-something, AT THE ROSE BOWL, where I went to see opening act Triumph, before BOC and Journey, if my memory is correct (but it probably isn’t. It was probably Kansas or Styx). All I know is that it sounded great on Monday night, and Steve Perry would have been proud.
All in all, it was a fun and entertaining Rally, that showed that the Bruin players are loose, confident, aware of the importance of The Rivalry, and ready to take it to sc on Saturday night.
A few quick notes before unleashing the photos —
Thankfully, Nikola Dragovic may NOT be SCum in Bruin clothing. According to Drago’s lawyers, Nikola was acting in self-defense when he got into his altercation. Apparently, the alleged “victim” chased Drago down, confronted, and threatened Drago (and a friend), and Drago had no choice but to protect himself. Of course we can’t know who is telling the truth and who is lying scum, but I’m siding with Drago, since he’s been through this ringer before, and he most likely knows better than “starting” something like this… and you can hardly blame him for “finishing” it, although I wish he did it another way.
The Basketball team didn’t miss him TOO badly on Monday night, as Michael Roll hit 5 Three’s to lead UCLA over Pepperdine, 71-52. Roll had 17 and Drew Gordon 18 in the rout, which wasn’t really a rout — The Bruin led only 46-41 in the middle of the second half. But that’s when Roll, Gordon, James Keefe, Malcolm Lee and even Mustafa Abdul-Hamid tightened the screws, hit some shots, and pulled away in a hurry. Abdul-Hamid was crucial, because Jerime Anderson cramped up. Jerime made a few more dreadful plays, but also had some steller moments. He made two very nice moves that led to shots in the paint, and he sank both of them. One was a left-hander, and one was a soft floater that swished through. Those two plays should in themselves quiet some people… At least, the people who can’t understand why he was even recruited in the first place.
And finally, I caught ONE PLAY from the Monday Night Football game before leaving for the Bonfire, and it just happened to be ex-trojan Brian Cushing of the Texans, getting flagged for a late hit out of bounds, on, of all people, the old trojan-killer extraordinaire, Vince Young. Guess Cushing is still mad about that 4th quarter choke against VY’s Longhorns that cost troy the National Championship (just like 13-9 did). Maybe Cushing should cheap shot Reggie “Bad Lateral” Bush instead, next time Houston plays New Orleans.
Okay, without further ado, here is the first batch of 20 photos from the Bonfire. All the photos enlarge when you click on them, and all the photos have hidden, mouse-over captions. There’s only one featured player who’s identity is still a mystery… the guy who had to “Take Off That RED shirt.” If anyone knows who it was, or recognizes him in the photos, please let me know.