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On tortillas, Steve Kerr and Generic Frat Boys: Notes from the UA graduation ceremony


Yes, tortillas are food. Yes, as Richard Pryor used to say, there are people starvin' in Mississippi. And yes, this is a serious occasion. But doggone it, those things make for a lively day. They fly like Frisbees, and they're apparently incapable of harming humans or property.

As soon as the graduates filed in to the UA graduation ceremony, the tortillas started flying--and a lot of them came from the upper reaches of McKale, so it's not like the grads are the sole perpetrators of this particular tradition.

I was initially concerned that somebody could get hurt if they got hit just right, but those fears appear to be unfounded. What was amazing was that the band played "Pomp and Circumstance" to perfection despite being under constant barrage. It was as though they had already been through the Charge of the Light Brigade or something, so this was nothing.

The tortillas flew right before things got started, then again at the end, but the main salvo came right after UA President Peter Likins bravely made the perfunctory statement about showing concern for others in the world, including those who are hungry, by not throwing food items. Likins spoke calmly into the microphone about respect, but what came out through the speakers was Bluto yelling, "Food fight!"

We'd attended a Hispanic function earlier in the week, and a reporter was going around getting people's reactions to the tortilla tradition, obviously hoping to get some juicy outrage quotes. The young woman asked my son, who is Hispanic, his views, and his eyes lit up. He said, "When I go to college, I'm going to spend some of my time figuring out how to fold tortillas into airplanes so they'll fly farther."

If he stays in school long enough, maybe it could be his dissertation.

Sadly, some people actually brought flour tortillas and tried to make them fly. The air resistance would reconfigure the things into balls, which would fall harmlessly to the ground about 10 feet from the embarrassed (and often puzzled) thrower.

White people. Ya know?

It was an especially hot day, even for mid-May. Everyone there was really glad that George W. Bush had decided not to be the commencement speaker. (Some of us had several reasons to be glad.)

The plan had been for Bush to speak to one big, combined graduating class at Arizona Stadium. It would have been nasty. But when things started going (extra) south in Iraq, the White House backed off. First thing he's done right in months.

The graduates gated at Bear Down Gym and then walked across the east part of the campus to McKale Center. Some genius decided to put a live TV camera in front of the UA Library to televise the procession of students as they made their way toward the ceremony. Many students realized what was going on and began waving to the camera. This had a relatively low probability for disaster, until somebody decided to turn on the sound.

I told my son to time how long it would be before somebody said something really stupid. Forty-eight seconds later, a Generic Frat Boy walks up to the camera, peers in and says, "Suck my d-ck!"

Dude better be glad I wasn't running the show. He would have been barred from McKale and told, "I hope your friends and family traveled a really long distance at great expense to be here today. While graduation is going on, you can sit out here for two hours and come up with a real good excuse for why you embarrassed them and showed no respect for 10,000 other people. And that diploma you thought you were gonna get? I think we lost it. Check back with us in July or August; we might find it by then."

I'm all for acting stupid every now and then, but why would you do it when people's parents and grandparents, siblings and friends are all gathered there? I'm actually disappointed that the people walking near him in line didn't kick his drunk ass and leave him baking on the sidewalk.

Absolute Low Point of the Ceremony: Some guy from the Board of Regents tried to make a joke about how he and the other regents had voted to raise tuition by $1,000 this year, after passing other raises in previous years. He tried to talk about how that measly thousand bucks would pay great dividends over the course of the graduates' lives. It went over like a turd in a punch bowl.

Commencement speaker Steve Kerr was way cool. He was the three best things a speaker can be--funny, brief and funny.

There were a few minor glitches. The sound system wasn't turned up loud enough. Some of the beach balls were under-inflated. But my favorite was when one of the speakers said something like, "We're only a phone call away," while on the big screen, the closed caption read, "We're only an alcoholic away."

Place your own punchline here.

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