One UCLA super fan came up with a creative way to attend the NCAA tournament
If UCLA makes a big play Monday in the NCAA tournament and one triumphant shriek can be heard above the others inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, there’s a good chance it’s coming from the guy wearing the Russell Westbrook jersey in Section 3, Row 13, Seat 3.
Ryan Gesas’ getting in the door depended on it.
Being boisterous may as well be a condition printed on the digital game tickets that Bruins athletic director Martin Jarmond has given Gesas and a few friends over the last week.
The University of Indiana film student who played basketball for Calabasas High has become UCLA’s earsplitting good-luck charm, turning his loud love for the Bruins into free tickets during the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament.
Coming off its victory over BYU in the first round of the NCAA tournament, UCLA is eager to reach the Sweet 16 with a win over Abilene Christian.
Gesas yelled himself hoarse during his favorite team’s comeback victory over Michigan State in overtime in the First Four before doing it again two days later when the Bruins pulled away from Brigham Young in the first round.
His vocal cords will receive another lengthy workout Monday evening when 11th-seeded UCLA faces 14th-seeded Abilene Christian in the second round.
“This is like a dream,” Gesas said Monday. “Sometimes I have to tell myself this is actually happening.”
A bit superstitious, Gesas isn’t changing any part of his routine. He’ll wear the same gray sweatpants, yellow undershirt and powder-blue Westbrook jersey that he’s worn for every UCLA win. He hasn’t even washed the garments in an effort to preserve their power, only spraying on some deodorant.
At first, Gesas — a lifelong UCLA fan who grew up in the San Fernando Valley and has been going to Bruins games since he was around 1 years old — was willing to pay his own way for the NCAA tournament. He checked StubHub during Selection Sunday and saw that tickets were going for a reasonable $85 before making the mistake of not immediately snatching them up.
When he went back to the website a few hours later, they had climbed to $600.
Then Gesas hatched an idea. Responding to a reporter’s tweet noting that Michigan State would hold a significant home-court advantage inside Mackey Arena for UCLA’s First Four game against the Spartans, Gesas directed a tweet toward the Bruins’ basketball account offering to make the two-hour drive from Bloomington, Ind., to the arena in West Lafayette and “scream like crazy for 40 minutes” if given a ticket.
Jarmond saw the tweet and offered to give Gesas two tickets if he brought a friend to the game to support the team. Deal. Gesas would bring Dean Kubersky, another Indiana student.
And so a tradition was born, one that Gesas and his new benefactor hope lasts all the way until April 5. That would mean UCLA would be playing in the national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“It’s all thanks to one tweet,” Gesas said. “Had I not tweeted that and Martin not seen that, I’m watching from my couch.”
Instead, he watched the first game only a few rows away from Jarmond and UCLA coach Mick Cronin’s family, the group growing louder as the Bruins rallied from a 14-point deficit to force overtime. Two days later, after the Bruins held off Brigham Young inside Hinkle Fieldhouse, Jarmond posted a video of himself celebrating with Gesas and the three friends whose tickets he had provided.
“That’s what we do!” Gesas yells in the video after lowering his face mask and pointing at Jarmond. “He did it, and I did it and they did it! Let’s go Bruins!”
Over the last few days, Gesas has become a cult celebrity. Sirius Pac-12 radio interviewed him, and one fan lobbied on social media for him to transfer to UCLA and attend every game. After the Bruins downed Michigan State, Gesas received a Twitter tribute from former UCLA point guard Tyus Edney, himself no stranger to generating roars this time of year.
“Young Gesas!!!” Edney tweeted. “That’s my guy!!!”
He intends to be there for the Bruins, every game, every win, as long as they will have him.
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