“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

June 5, 2010 at 9:00 am in Obituaries, People, Sports

Every now and then we Trojans have to join up with those annoying Bruins on some things (and not just hating on Cal). This weekend, we join together on a sad note – mourning the loss of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

John Wooden and Bill Walton, 1970

John Wooden and Bill Walton, 1970. Photo courtesy Vedia on Flickr.

I’ve been making some plans lately for the upcoming World Cup. I don’t follow soccer (football?) but I wanted to take part in the magnificent exercise in sports fandom that will be USA vs. England. Whatever their sport, fans tend to unite over great communal experiences like the World Cup, the Olympics, the Super Bowl or the Lakers in the finals.

We, as lovers of sport, also unite in recognizing legends, regardless of rivalry or affiliation. We all recognize the greatness that was John Wooden.

And all of us, Bruins, Trojans, whatever, felt our hearts sink a bit at the news that Wooden was “gravely ill”, and then when he eventually passed away last night. He may have been 99 years old and hadn’t coached in decades, but the loss of Wooden still leaves a big gaping hole in the sports world. Coaches with his level of success and, more importantly, his level of influence are one-in-a-million.

Well before I moved to California and learned about Trojans vs. Bruins (and on which side I stood), I learned about Wooden. I remember my 7th grade basketball coach preaching his wisdom to us in the locker room. His name is all over buildings in Westwood. My favorite monument to him is the bust carved out of wood that sits in the lobby at ESPN Zone in Anaheim (the “wooden Wooden”). He’s practically required reading for teachers and coaches of all levels.

Wooden represented the best of UCLA, of basketball, of Los Angeles, hell, all of sports in general. While normally I would be reveling in seeing the Bruins cope with a loss (like, say, in a football game), this time, I, and fans everywhere, will be right there with them.

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