UCLA Football underwent a transition in 2018, when Chip Kelly took the reins of the mighty and historic Bruin program. The beginnings were more humbling than expected, with the Bruins going 3-9 in what was the worst season the team endured since 1971. Coach Kelly was under the gun every season, with the passionate supporters propagating his dismissal. His methods were questioned, and there was even betting taking place before the 2021 season as to when we would be fired! Fast forward to today, 7th November 2022, the Bruins are 7-1 heading into the home stretch of the regular season. The team recently jumped to #9 in Associated Press’s Top 25 College Football team rankings overtaking Alabama, a historically major force in college football. Popularity for the team and Coach Kelly is at an all time high, with results from SBRnets annual survey showing UCLA’s program as the 10th most popular in the nation, and the most popular in the west coast region. Furthermore, the fanbase is double the size of the next most popular team in the west coast region, USC, quite the welcoming statistic to the prideful Bruin community.

 

There are a host of factors that can be attributed to the rise and current success of Bruins Football. One of the most prominent being the major improvements of quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson, or DTR for short. His career at UCLA has coincided with the arrival of Coach Kelly, and his growth trajectory is characteristic of the process-oriented approach implemented by Coach Kelly. Now considered a dark horse in Heisman Trophy – the award conferred to the most outstanding player in College Football – conversations, Thompson-Robinson ranks 5th in the nation in pass efficiency, 7th in offense yards per play and has 19 Touchdowns to his name across 8 games. His completion percentage has skyrocketed from 57.7% in his freshman year to 71.7% in the current season. Further, and perhaps most importantly, he brings an extremely competitive mentality, excellent leadership and a coachable attitude to the locker room. “He gets better every single day; he’s always trying to get better and he has that mentality.”, says Coach Kelly of his quarterback. (ESPN) 

 

Another factor is the smart, loyal veteran culture of the team. Coach Kelly strives for a player led-team, with seniors like Thompson-Robinson, Zach Charbonnet, Stephan Blaylock, Jon Gaines shouldering responsibility on and off the field. The average starter on the UCLA football team this season, has had 37.5 games under their belt (Sports Illustrated). It could be this maturity that has led to the efficient brand of football the team is playing on both sides of the ball, a style reminiscent of the iconic 2010 Kelly led Oregon team. Adaptability is key, with the small things taking priority. Each drill, each training session has value and there is a natural process, maturation to be followed. 

 

This culture and playbook sets up the team for what is to come. With UCLA’s shift to the Big Ten in 2024, tougher competition – and colder weather – can be expected. While we may not have our senior players taking the helm in seasons to follow, there is a good amount of young talent. With Coach Kelly signed on for another 4 years the future promises to be bright and intriguing. Presently however, the cards seem to have fallen in our favor this season, and things seem to be coming together. This could well be one of our best football campaigns in a while, and with the playoffs fast approaching, excitement and expectations are high in Westwood. There’s no other way anybody would want it! Go Bruins!

 

It is no secret that there used to be a distinct color line within American Baseball. This segregation barred players of African-American descent from playing in the Major League Baseball (MLB) and associated leagues. UCLA Alum Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was the first player to break this line, on April 15, 1947, when he started on first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Fast forward 75 years to the current 2022 Phillies-Astros World Series, and one would imagine things would have well and truly changed for the better. However, this World Series is in fact the first one since 1950 that fields no Black players born in the United States. 

 

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics at the University of Central Florida publishes an annual report, nicknamed the TIDES, which presents statistics on the MLB’s diversity demographics. In 1995, the league reported 19% of the player demographic to be Black or African American players. According to 2022’s report, the percentage of Black or African American players is 7.2%, a decrease of 0.4% from 2021. Often ignored, this trend exists off the field and in the front office as well. The TIDES report graded MLB’s racial hiring as subpar in almost every employee category. Currently, 82.8% of vice presidents in the league are White, and 92.3% of CEOs are White. An explanation of these astonishing numbers are the existing structural factors in place today within the MLB. 

 

The origin and growth of the academy concept to scout new talent in the 1980s, specifically in Caribbean and South American countries is one of the aforementioned factors. The Dominican Republic is a hub for low-cost player academies for all teams, with the LA Dodgers being the first to set up theirs. Talent from overseas is brought in, with the development process costing less than what it would for domestic players from minority communities. The academies that do exist in the country are a source for a lot of players, are often elite and very expensive. International Management Group (IMG) is one such example, with the percentage of Black players within IMG being the same as the percentage of Black players in the MLB. Lack of funding for college baseball programs is another issue, with college sports providing the main segway for young athletes to foray into the world of professional sports. 

 

There are some measures being taken to fight this issue. Commissioner Manfred announced a $150M commitment to the Players Alliance starting 2023, with diversity improvement being a specific goal. However, it is necessary to put the right people in place within the MLB organization and franchises, to improve hiring practices and increase the focus on diversity. Holistic programs and education needs to be developed for those in charge, and most importantly, it is imperative that pipeline player-development programs are put in place to nurture talent from underrepresented communities within the sport. 

 

Sports are ever present, it’s the pastime for households across the globe. The allure of game and competition is such that people all over the world, regardless of race, are inspired by sport. It influences everyone. In today’s mass media landscape, the reach of sports has grown exponentially. Keeping that in mind, it is crucial to provide everyone watching with hope and a sense of opportunity. It is crucial to use this platform for good, therefore it is imperative that issues like lack of diversity and representation be tackled.  

Every day, sports fans across the country have the luck of going to a game to watch their favorite team and coming home with a souvenir that they didn’t expect or pay for. Some don’t think much of it, about the ball or the jersey they got, but most take it back home and store it on a shelf for permanent posterity. This little piece of memorabilia, now owned by us, represents a moment in time. It’s a reference to the people who used it, the stadium it was in, and is a part of sports history. Maybe that’s why the sports memorabilia market is worth $26.1Bn and is expected to grow to $200Bn by 2032 (GlobalNewswire.com). 

 

The most prominent form of memorabilia is sports cards. The value of these can be as inexpensive as $1, with the most expensive card, the 1952 Topps (Mickey Mantle), valued at $5.2M. Interestingly, the manufacture of sports cards started as a loyalty retention tactic for cigarette companies. Started by Allen and Ginter in 1886, lithographic pictures of sports players and teams on cards were placed in cigarette packs as a way to improve brand awareness and appeal. This led to the advent of trade cards, with baseball being their founding sport. Early cards would generally contain 3 metrics, a picture of a player, the emblem of the team they played for, and then statistics. 

 

Needless to say, it’s fascinating to see the exponential growth the industry has had since then as the landscape of collectibles now looks very different in the contemporary world. As counterfeiting has become an increasingly popular money-making tactic, there now exists a Professional Authentication Service (PSA) founded in 1991. PSA has state-of-the-art vaults in holding companies just to store these

6.4 cm by 8.9 cm pieces of paper and experts who employ themselves full time by examining cards and collectibles. Some collectibles are being digitized, and new ones are being created as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) to assure security by utilizing modern-blockchain technology. Athletes and teams have been signing endorsement deals with companies to produce these NFTs and create a digital community of the most committed fans who buy these.

 

While defining the intrinsic value of memorabilia, experts today consider 3 prongs. First, is the physical condition, the more pristine these cards are, the greater their value. Cards are rated on a scale of 1-10, and all other items are on a scale from 1-70 by the PSA. Second, the popularity of the player and team is assessed within the current market. Customers are required to pay a fee which can range from $50-$12,000 based on that, and whether the piece has an autograph. Lastly comes scarcity, while this has no official measure or rating, the relative scarcity of the card is known to consumers by market estimations and the rarer the card the more the consumer wants to and must pay for them. (Forbes)

 

It might be highly surprising to examine the massive industry and infrastructure that exists today for memorabilia. However, I think it’s clear. Sports are all about passion, purity, and hope. Memorabilia provides an insight, into a relationship with your favorite player or team, whose impact may have been more than just on the field. While objectively governed by rules, sporting audiences are cultivated in a highly personal way. There’s a story behind every fan’s relationship, and every supporter’s love for their team. Athletes inspire and transcend their sport in many ways. This nature is the underlying reason for the skyrocketing evaluation of the sports memorabilia industry, and I don’t see it dying down anytime soon. 

When it comes to sports in America, one cannot deny the existence of a “Big Four”. The NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL dominate viewership, and rightly so. They are the pinnacle of elite athleticism and are each the wealthiest professional club competitions in their sport (titlemax.com). The sports are associated with these leagues, and as evidenced by the NBA in specific, athletes from all over the world flock to the United States to play at the highest level and achieve true glory. People grow up watching these sports, with sentiments attached to each team and its history. Nothing can break that bond. However, there’s always a possibility of disruption.

   The world, especially after the pandemic, has entered a highly technological mass media landscape. Content is being consumed on streaming platforms, and social media at an astonishing rate. A sport that has mastered this change is Formula 1, or F1 for short.

   For those unaware, Formula 1 is considered to be the pinnacle of motorsport and modern engineering. Each season, 20 cars race on countless challenging tracks, which range from street circuits to specially crafted tracks, in all sorts of conditions and all over the world. Most team bases are set up in Italy and England, with the sport having originated in Europe.

   However, it is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States. Historically, F1 only had one race in the US: a Grand Prix in Indianapolis from 2000-2007 and then the Circuit of the Americas in Austin 2012 and onwards. Just this year, Formula 1 raced on a street track around the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, with ticket prices going up to a reported $35,000. The viewership equaled 240,000 people over a span of 3 days, with the whole event thought to have brought $400M to the city of Miami. Super Bowl LVI’s viewership was around 208 million, and Miami Grand Prix’s viewership stood at around 109 Million. The difference? The Super Bowl has been a tradition since the 1960s, while the Miami GPs first edition was in 2022. Formula 1 also recently announced a new race starting in Las Vegas 2023, where the cars will take to the famous Strip. The excitement surrounding this event is tremendous, with packages being sold for over $100,000.

   The key to this exponential growth lies in the media narrative of the sport. Having been acquired by American-based Liberty Media in 2017, Formula 1’s marketing focuses on branding the sport as an all-around entertainment festival in the United States, rather than a pure sport – understanding the love the American public has for the ‘Big Four”. They currently run a Netflix Show known as Drive to Survive, which used exaggeration to enthrall North American audiences. It’s led to a massive influx in viewership of the sport. Formula 1 also runs 3 different podcasts, on which they frequently bring in Team Bosses, Drivers, and high-profile guests. They own their own streaming service, which is easily accessible on their website, and regularly post race clips, highlights, and driver and fan interactions on their YouTube Channel.

   To conclude, Formula 1 and its growth is a prime example of how conquering the mass media and technology landscape in today’s day and age can lead to a massive expansion in sport. While the connection between people and their teams is pure, rare, and valuable, it is also important to understand how the world and people are changing, and how sport’s portrayal must change with it.