Super Sports Saturday

Last Saturday was an intense sports day. Joe wanted to go to the John Wooden memorial at UCLA, so we drove down, and got in line to get into Pauley Pavilion at 6 AM. The service started at 11 AM and was supposed to last 90 minutes, which overlapped with most of the USA vs. Ghana game. (Oh, why couldn’t they have scheduled the memorial at 9 AM or 9:30 AM, in the gap between the World Cup matches!?) It was hard to submit to good manners, and keep Joe’s crackberry switched off during the ceremony, and not know what the score was. As soon as the ceremony was over, we dashed off to the nearest sports bar in Westwood, crammed with US fans, and watched the bitter finish. The consolation prize for us was going to Dodgers’ game after that . . . at home against the Yankees. Derek Jeter, John Wooden’s favourite player in his favourite sport – baseball, also attended Wooden’s memorial. (I’d never been to Dodger Stadium before, and in continuing last year’s quest to go visit as many baseball parks as possible, I was the one who suggested we go! Joe had been there before.)

Joe is a huge admirer of John Wooden, not just because he went to UCLA, but he had tremendous respect for Wooden’s values, integrity and philosophy. I had read Wooden’s little blue book while on vacation last fall, and the video clip “UCLA Dynasty” they showed before the actual start of the ceremony featured the same themes:

– Woodenisms: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” “Make everyday your masterpiece”
– The Pyramid of Success
– As coach, Wooden would teach his players the proper way to put on their socks and tie their shoelaces.
– His humility.
– His devotion to his late wife Nell. He was quite insistent that no new buildings be named after him, but eventually relented. The floor of Pauley Pavilion has been named the “Nell and John Wooden Court.”
– He never used swear words, but his players knew they were in deep doo-doo if he said “Goodness gracious sakes alive.”
– His sense of faith, his love of poetry and music.

Oh yes, and he led UCLA to 10 NCAA championships.

He was a man of his era, for his era. I don’t think we’ll ever see anyone like him again, and even if there were, that person probably wouldn’t be able to ‘make it’ in today’s environment.

Several winters ago, Joe and I drove down to San Diego for Christmas with his family. On the way, the schedule worked out such that we went to see UCLA playing at home against Michigan. I saw John Wooden, sitting is his usual seat, at the end of the courtside row, a dignified gentleman. At the memorial service, they retired his seat.

Not as many people came to the memorial as UCLA seemed to have expected. School was out, and the website press release talked about no queuing up before 5 AM, an overflow field with large screen TVs, if Pauley Pavilion reached capacity. It was also televised on local TV, and streamed live on the Internet. Joe and I could have slept in, and gotten there at 9 AM when they let people into Pauley and still got in. Still it was fun shooting the breeze with others in the line, me with my soccer hat, Joe in his UCLA beanie. (Squint to the left.)

The first person in line . . . was wearing USC colors!

USA vs. Ghana:
At least they didn’t have to go to penalty kicks. I guess the USA team overspent their emotional and physical strength in the Algeria match and didn’t have enough time to fully recharge. I can afford to say, “Good luck, Ghana, as the only African team left in the tournament.”

My other teams are Germany and Argentina, would have been an ideal final, but they’re meeting up in a quarter-final this Saturday.

I was just wondering why NCAA has their cutesy terms like “Sweet Sixteen”, “Elite Eight”, “Final Four” for each round of the men’s basketball tournament, but in the World Cup and most other sports, it’s just the straight-forward Round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, etc. (Well, OK, World Cup usually has a “Group of Death”.)


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