Everyone who knows Ethel knows that she is a sports fan with intense loyalties. "We can't leave now, the game is on" is something all of us have heard at one time or another. Of course, if you're a sports fan too, that's not something you would complain about. I certainly have not in the past. Anything involving UCLA is important to her, and the beloved Dodgers.........well, she sometimes has deserved better.
In 1975 Ethel, Rita, Kerry and I traveled to San Diego to see the NCAA basketball championship. We had ordered the tickets long before the season had even started and had no real way of knowing who was going to be playing. But UCLA, which wasn't at all a favorite that year, survived a very close call in the Western Regionals against Wyoming and worked their way into the championships.
We went to San Diego for the Semi-finals on Saturday, filled with excitement and anticipation, with Ethel having that certain glow she gets. Kentucky beat Rutgers in the first game rather easily. And then we sat in on what some people called the greatest game in NCAA history. UCLA and Louisville fought on and on. The Bruins tied the score and in overtime, and won the game on Richard Washington's shot from the corner. We were exhausted and sat in our chairs as the fans left the building. When we finally left and got into our car, we turned on the car radio to hear that John Wooden had announced his retirement.
On Monday we came back into the San Diego Sports Arena and watched another very exciting game as UCLA and John Wooden won their championship. His last one.
Ethel, the Dodger fan...........Well,
the lady was born in Green Hills, in Cincinnati. Born a Red fan.........but
a long time ago Ethel entered into a lifetime relationship with Lou Gerbus
and with California. When they arrived here in 1958, she became a
devout fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tommy Lasorda may bleed
Dodger blue, but no one not on the payroll was more loyal than Ethel.
And you have to understand that this meant a schism with her Cincinnati
relatives. Martin Luther would have been more welcome in Rome than
Ethel in the home of the 'big Red Machine'! Fortunately her eastern
relatives loved her a lot and were reasonably civilized as those kind of
people go. Otherwise!!! I remember Ethel taking her sister
, Dot, and brother in law to Dodger Stadium for a Reds-Dodgers game.
Ray could not handle the reserved level front row seats and we had to move.
The biggest thrill we had though , was when we went to a Red-Dodger game
when Joe Ferguson hit a grand slammer in the bottom of the ninth to win
it for the Dodgers.
But they get her wrath too. Rita tells me that the only time she heard her mother curse was a 'Oh those damned Dodgers' after they had done something not so good.
Kerry once called Ethel from Denver. Ethel picked up the phone, answered 'Hello'. Kerry said "Hi, Grams". Then silence. Kerry worried, close to panic. Her beloved grandmother silent on the other end. What had happened??..... 'cardiac arrest'?......... 'stroke'?......... Nothing of the sort. The UCLA basketball game had sixteen seconds to go. And they won, and she said, "hi, Kerry!!"
Ethel is ever young. This year she was watching the Oregon-UCLA football game on television. Eileen Marsen had invited her over for dinner and, about the time she had planned, Eileen called to say that she would come by and pick Ethel up. Eileen had not been watching the football game, and Ethel told her that it had ten minutes to go. Eileen said that she would come by to get her in fifteen minutes, which seemed reasonable enough. But when she got there and buzzed up to Ethel's she got a terse message that the game was still on, so Eileen just sat there, again oblivious to the increasing drama of the game which had some wild last minute scoring and ended the regulation time in a tie. Ethel, hearing that there would be three minutes before the start of the overtime calculated that Eileen could drive them to the Marsden's in that time period. She rushed down.
Now Eileen is smart enough about sports but she had no real way of knowing what was happening on the football field, and even more, what was happening in Ethel's head. Eileen proceeded to drive safely (and slowly) to her home. Ethel, while polite was more and more agitated and Eileen was coming to the rapid conclusion that Ethel was on her way to a heart attack. They got there a little late for the start of overtime, but the Bruins won and Ethel was "cured".
Anyone who has ever been to a sporting event with Ethel Gerbus or has even been with her when there was something "important" on television or even radio, will remember her intensity. Part of her joy, part of her charm!