For starters it was #10 UCLA (where I'd gone to graduate school) against #5 Oregon, who’d beaten them at home on a last-second shot a couple weeks earlier. And mid-way through the first half last night, Oregon was up by 19 points. I almost turned to my friend and said we picked a bad game to go to, and thought about joking that we could leave then to beat the crowd. And though UCLA cut that to nine points at the half, they again went by down by 15 points about five minutes into the second.
Little by little, though, UCLA cut the margin, and then, shockingly, with four minutes left they actually they took the lead – and the crowd, which at this point had been growing in enthusiasm, was utterly deafening, going crazy, it seemed like the arena was close to shaking. And UCLA held on to win 82-79. Huzzah. (And helped by an inexplicably inept last play by Oregon, when they had 12 seconds left and just floundered. It's so bad that during the middle of the play, analyst Bill Walton comments how terrible it is.)
I haven’t been to Pauley Pavilion since the 1984 Olympics. I haven’t been to a basketball game there since grad school. So, it was quite a way to return! (How great a game was it? Even though Duke played North Carolina that same day -- two of the top rivals in NCAA history -- ESPN Sportscenter lead off with the UCLA game!) And I really mean it when I said the crowd was deafening – it wasn’t just easily the loudest by far I remember at Pauley, it was probably the loudest sports crowd I’ve heard in L.A. (In fairness, an indoor arena will likely be louder than outdoor with the sound reverberating, and especially in a fairly-contained space like Pauley.) But although my memory of Pauley Pavilion might be obscured by the hazy distance of time, the guy sitting next to us, who said he goes there a lot, said it was easily the loudest he’d ever heard. Honestly, my ears were still fuzzy after we’d left the stadium, and for several minutes. (Driving home, listening to the post-game show on the radio, even the UCLA coach noted the crowd and gave it a lot of credit.)
How loud was it? I was able to watch the ESPN replay of the game (needless-to-say, I fast-forwarded to when there were 12 minutes left -- and it was great). And though the broadcasts muted the crowd noise, it still came through as exceedingly loud. And not only did the announcers note several times that they’ve never heard Pauley that loud (which is saying A LOT because one of the announcers, as I said, was Bill Walton who played there! For four years), but a couple of times during those final minutes, the announcers said that they couldn't even hear the other.
So, after what was a dismal start, down by 19 points to the #5 team in the country, it was quite a great game to have chosen to go to after all these years.
Here's a good 2:40 recap of the game. It gives an effective sense of the flow of things, but if you just want to see the exciting conclusion (and hear the crowd), jump to the 1:30 mark. The crowd won't come across nearly as loud as being there -- in part because, as I said, it's muted for TV, but also because in this recap, they cut the cheering short -- but it's still a treat. And you'll get to see the bizarrely terrible last play by Oregon. But mainly, you get to see UCLA win. And yes, I know that probably doesn't mean a whole to you. But I had a great time.