UCLA v Michigan @ 1900 Tonight

A lot of people my age were enthralled with the idea of UCLA because of the unprecedented success of John Wooden’s basketball teams. 

When I moved into UCLA’s “Southern Suites” across from Rieber Hall when they opened in January 1981, I promptly put a poster of John Wooden and his “Pyramid of Success” on the bedroom wall I shared with Johnny Sun from South Pas (Pasadena for the uninitiated). The fact that Johnny moved to the U.S. from Hong Kong when he was 12 is no excuse for what he asked me a few months later, “Who is that on the poster?” “Shit!” I replied, “how the hell did they ever admit you!” 

Nine months earlier, at freshman orientation, I made friends with a shy Asian-American student who for our purposes we’ll call “Ken”. As some of us shot hoops, Ken stood at a distance and silently watched. Somehow I ended up chatting with him and we palled around during subsequent activities. In addition, we took a Social Psychology class together our first year, during which Ken napped through a majority of the lectures. 

Yesterday, from Japan, Ken one-upped Johnny Sun by asking a couple of questions about the absurd poster that celebrates UCLA’s surprising run in the NCAA tournament. It started innocently enough, “Whose beaming face is on the little cherubs?” But then things quickly escalated into Johnny Sun territory, “I’m glad I didn’t guess. I thought it was Joe Biden (you wrote ‘J brothers’).” And then he brought it home, “So Bill’s name has a silent J in front? Who are the 3 seated? Me thought the center was Justin Trudeau.”

And with that reference to the Canadian Prime Minister, “Ken” is the new leader in the Clueless UCLA Clubhouse (neither of them would get that golf reference).

So for Ken and anyone else similarly flumoxed, a brief explanation.

Left to right, Jules Bernand, Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Johnny Juzang, three of the best players on this year’s team. Thus, the “J Brothers.” The little cherubs. . . Bill Walton, not 46. And for extra credit, note the tiny Mitch Cronin just below and to the left of Bernard. 

Ken, because I know you’re going to ask, Mick Cronin is the coach.

Go Bruins!   

 

Cincinnati—You’re On The Clock

The National Football League Draft combine is taking place right now in Indianapolis*.

Everyone knows the key to success in the NFL is having an elite quarterback. Everyone also knows the key to being an elite quarterback is having big hands.

And so, Cincinnati faces a decision that could transform their franchise—Burrows or Byrnes?

Burrows was decent during his final season at LSU—60 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. But when it came to pickup basketball at UCLA’s John Wooden Center, Byrnes was an early 80’s legend. Among other things people on campus remember from his play was the way he’d palm the ball like a shorter, younger, whiter Connie Hawkins.

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Byrnes easily palmed the ball because he has large hands. Burrows—9″. Byrnes—9.75″. Cincinnati’s dilemma is there’s not a lot of football tape of Byrnes since he retired to golf after whiffing a tackle in the eighth grade in Cypress, California. That was on the coach though because the young phenom told him that he was “. . . born to quarterback, not cornerback.”

People in Kentucky, Ohio, and Southern Cal still reminisce about his after school pick-up quarterbacking. It is Cincy’s bad luck that all of that was before pocket video cameras, GoPros, and drones.

Will Cincy go with the guy who is anxiously waiting for the iPhone SE2 so he can more easily grip it or the guy who can palm an 11″ iPad? We won’t know until April 23rd.

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*President Trump, that’s in Indiana.

Don’t Box People In

My advice to myself after reading this short article, “Emotional Michael Jordan unveils first of two medical clinics in Charlotte”.

One day in the spring of 1984, MJ walked into UCLA’s Wooden Center where a scrawny senior history major, who would one day become a famous blogger, was on fire. After helping my team hold court again, I stopped to watch MJ run with an assortment of professional and UCLA varsity ballers. In town to accept the John Wooden Award, he was on another level, even compared to me.

Like any basketball fan I suspect, I always admired his talent, the ease in which he moved, got open, shot, defended. Simultaneously, I was always dismayed by his refusal to use his platform and incredible wealth to benefit others. Did he have his social conscious surgically removed I wondered?

I shoulda been more patient. I apologize MJ for not giving you the benefit of the doubt that someday you’d most definitely give back in the most meaningful of ways. Good on you.