What’s up future Bruins! My name is Ben and I am a first-year Cognitive Science major at UCLA. I am from Torrance, which is about half an hour south of UCLA on a good day and about an hour and a half south on your typical, trafficked LA day.
First, congratulations on your acceptance to UCLA! I know each and every one of you worked extremely hard to get to this point. Just take a moment to admire the work and dedication you put in to get here.
Growing up relatively close to Westwood, UCLA has pretty much always had a presence in my life. I am a first-generation college student, so I didn’t have any college sports fandom impressed upon me by my parents. If people asked what my favorite college team was, I defaulted to cheering for UCLA athletics, purely due to its geographic proximity and due to the fact that my cousin and some of my past teachers were UCLA alums.
But I wasn’t really a big college sports guy in the first place back then. I wasn’t really a big school sports guy back then. In fact, I did not attend a single football or basketball game in high school. I’m a hockey guy; I’m a huge Kings fan, I played hockey, and I reffed hockey. But in SoCal, hockey isn’t really a college or high school sport that you can cheer for. So it’s not like I didn’t care about sports at all, I just didn’t care about school – whether college or high school – sports.
To my surprise, my whole outlook on school athletics changed when I got to UCLA. I went to my first UCLA football game with my parents before the school year started (the game was in late August and UCLA starts in September). It was a 90-degree Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl in which UCLA suffered its first loss to SDSU in 23 years and broke attendance records. The record for lowest attendance.
Why would such a dreary sounding game change my perspective on college sports? Because it exposed me to the tradition and community that UCLA Athletics could offer. I wasn’t sitting in the student section for that game (known as The Den), but I could just feel the excitement and energy that the few dedicated students who trekked out to the Rose Bowl before school was even in session had in supporting our school’s tradition of athletic excellence (118 NCAA Titles, second-most in the country).
It wasn’t long before I got to take part in that myself. The first event I attended when school had actually started was a women’s volleyball game against USC. I stepped foot inside historic Pauley Pavilion for the first time with some friends I had met on my floor, and we got to watch an exhilarating five-set match ending with a UCLA win. I didn’t know anything about volleyball initially, but I slowly learned by watching how exciting and skilled the sport actually was, picking up on rules and technicalities as the game went on.
It was then that I was immersed in UCLA Athletics. I can’t even count how many games I have been to in my two quarters at UCLA, whether it’s the most popular sports like men’s basketball and football, or less attended events like women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s water polo, or softball. And keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who did not attend a single high school sporting event.
I actually found that the sports that do not get the attention they deserve are equally as exciting as those that do, but just offer a different experience. For example, it’s really easy to jeer opposing players at soccer games because you can sit right along the sidelines. All it takes is a simple look at the online roster to find out all you need to know about the wings and defenders.
My involvement in athletics did not end at just being a fan. I joined The Den Operations, which is a club that manages marketing student attendance and generating spirit and excitement at events. We are responsible for the Mick Cronin and Bill Walton big heads you may have seen on TV. In addition, I also do sports infographics for Daily Bruin, which is the student newspaper on campus.
If you would rather play than watch sports at UCLA, that’s not a problem. There is a wide range of club teams you can join, ranging from basketball to quidditch. And if the commitment of a club sport is too much, there are several intermural sports available to just have a good time. I was on my floor’s intermural ultimate frisbee team for fall quarter. Not only was it a good way to try out a new sport, but it was an opportunity to meet new people and bond. And we weren’t bad; we made it to semi-finals but lost against a team made up of club players.
But what my sudden change of heart boils down to is the sense of community I got from becoming a part of a historic fan base. I chose UCLA because of the sense of community if offered, and sports was one community that I, along with thousands of other students, identify it. I get shivers hearing the Bruin Fanfare in my head or imagining the collective sea of blue and gold jumping up and down at a Bruin victory in Pauley.
UCLA athletics has already provided me with countless memories in my short time here, whether it be watching football’s insane comeback against Washington State in my lounge during the first week of school, seeing Jaime Jaquez game winning, buzzer beating three pointer live, or traveling to Vegas to watch women’s basketball play in the Pac-12 tournament. I can’t wait to see what more UCLA sports memories I will have in the rest of my time here.