"I am obsessed with UCLA football," he said with a straight face.
Lucky for him, we met in the spring and I had a whole summer to fall for him before our first football season. Our first season also happened to be the first time he was the owner of UCLA football season tickets and that meant I would be along for the ride.
That first year, after hearing my boyfriend talk about it, I looked forward to attending the football games. The tailgating, the excitement; athleticism is in my blood -- I can't deny it, nor do I want to. I knew, generally, what went on in a football game. But being a theatre student in New York during my college years, I wasn't rooting for the home team every Saturday. I didn't even have a home team. I was homeless.
That first game, I must admit, I wasn't prepared for the swearing and the sweating, the pacing and the cheering. I wasn't ready for the level of devotion my husband gave the Bruins. They seemed to lose more than they won that first season I witnessed, but still, every Saturday, he was there, praying and 8-clapping with all his heart. At first I giggled at the folks who sat around us in the stands at the Rose Bowl. It's just a game, I would silently say to myself. Of course I would cheer when they won and be disappointed if they lost, but I didn't carry the game with me for the rest of the week. I barely carried it with me on the walk back to the car. After one of the games that first year, we were driving away from the Rose Bowl and I asked my boyfriend where we should go for dinner, and he shushed me and turned up the post-game show on the radio.
Well, I guess I can live with this for a few weeks out of the year, I thought to myself. You take the good with the bad in a relationship sometimes.
Little did I know I would learn to love the bad.
Over the years, something happened to me. Somewhere in our journey to man and wife I changed. In the stands, I started jumping up and down and screeching with delight when the Bruins scored a touchdown. I realized that I inadvertently had collected an entire wardrobe of hats and shirts that said "UCLA" in the proud colors of blue and gold. I began to curse the Trojans and all their obnoxious fans.
There was just something special about UCLA, those colors, the Rose Bowl, that got into my blood in a way that I didn't think was possible.
I now secretly read Bruin Report Online and watch "Bruin Rewind" when my husband isn't home.
After the game, I now take the game with me back to the car. Or into the next day.
And you know what? I like it. As heart-breaking as a defeat can be, the sweet joy of victory is even greater.
Often when I'm in the stands with my husband and my father-in-law (who sits behind us), and I listen to my father-in-law scream like a little girl and I turn around and high-five him, I stop and think: What happened to me? My voice is horse, I'm watching the game clock. The air is tense and filled with energy. And touchdown! Touchdown UCLA! Watch out for the wild elbow of my husband coming at my left eye...high-five, high-five, high-five. 8-clap!
Somewhere along the line I became a Bruin fan. To the unsuspecting fans who sit around me, I am a lifelong Bruin fan.
To watch this girl from Iowa do a mean 8-clap would be watching a girl who finally found her home team. Home is where the Rose Bowl is.