WESTWOOD – After upsetting UCLA on its home floor on Dec. 16, Gaucho fans began making reservations to the NCAA’s Final Four in San Antonio, Texas.
“This is a great win for the best team in the nation,” UCSB senior Wes Badorek exclaimed about his Gauchos. Then I reminded him about Santa Barbara’s lopsided losses to South Eastern Missouri State, St. Mary’s and Montana. I can only imagine the horror and sense of injustice that Badorek felt Dec. 22, when the University of Kentucky (6-0 at the time) was pronounced #1 in the country by both The Associated Press and USA Today polls.
I heard three UCLA students chuckling to one another when the announcer used the term “Gauchos” to introduce the starting lineup for Santa Barbara. I assumed they were poking fun at the obscurity of our mascot, it being an Argentinean cowboy and all. At first taking offense, I quickly calmed down with the assurance that a Bruin is nothing more than a female teddy bear.
A reporter for the UCLA Daily Bruin told me that the group of savage baby blue T-shirt-wearing students with their shirts tucked in near center court were called “The Den.”
“It’s kind of like our version of the Cameron Crazies at Duke,” she said. After the fear subsided, I pointed toward the orgy in the rafters and explained that the drunken gold madness of hecklers, degenerates and obscenities were termed the “Gaucho Locos.”
“Oh yeah, they’re students at UCSB too,” I said.
I asked the same reporter why The Den sucked.
“Sucked?” she asked disgustedly.
“Yes, why are the 500 Gaucho fans louder than the 5,000 UCLA supporters,” I posed sardonically, in an attempt to speak their pretentious native tongue at UCLA. She nodded her head as if she understood.
“They’re not really a student organization. As you can see, just because they get the shirt, it doesn’t make them louder.”
I asked the girl if she’d ever heard of a drink called jungle juice. After the game I invited a Gaucho Loco over to explain the concept to her, but I realized that I would have to translate for the Loco.
For the record, despite their striking resemblance, 7’0″ UCLA sophomore center Michael Fey is in no way related to Andre the Giant.
Although he did not start, 6’9″ UCLA senior forward TJ Cummings scored 24 points in his season debut against the Gauchos. Cummings had reportedly been kept out of the Bruins’ first four games due to ineligibility.
After the game I desperately tried to get onto the court to ask Cummings if, like some of his previous Bruins, his ineligibility status was due to using an unauthorized handicap parking permit to conveniently park wherever his soon-to-be-rich ass wanted. Since I didn’t have keys to a Lexus in my pocket, the Pauley Pavilion security wouldn’t let me onto the court, despite showing them my press pass. Soon after, I read the fine print in the weekly press release and realized I had assumed the 1997 UCLA football team’s handicap parking pass debacle might explain Cummings’ ineligibility. Cummings, it turned out, was merely academically ineligible.
It was great to see the UCLA faithful excited about the addition of Head Coach Ben Howland. The Bruin alumni were getting tired of that nasty image of Steve Lavin’s underarm perspiration when he would call plays. Thankfully, Howland uses Sure.