I have a fun quiz question for you. Don't cheat. Don't Google it or look it up on your phone. As a matter of fact, if you do cheat, I hope your mother never gets out of prison. Unless, of course, she is in prison, in which case, I hope she eventually gets out...unless you don't want her to. Anyway, here's the question: For all of his incredible work on the big screen, what is the only role/movie for which Robert Duvall won an Academy Award? (The answer is below, so don't peek. Put the paper or computer monitor or tablet down and think about it for a minute or two.)
Duvall, who is now 82 years old, started out in theater and TV, doing Twilight Zone episodes before he hit the movies as Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird in 1962. He went on to play Frank Burns in the movie M*A*S*H and then consigliere Tom Hagen in The Godfather. He was an adulterous TV executive in Network, and unhinged preacher in The Apostle, and the crazy "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" Army major in Apocalypse Now. But, somehow, the only role for which he won an Oscar was for his portrayal of broken-down country singer Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies, a movie that was seen by about 12 people in theaters across the country. (I actually saw it, which means that it was seen by me and 11 others.)
Along those same lines, film legend James Cagney portrayed several iconic characters in such films as Public Enemy, White Heat, and Angels With Dirty Faces, but his only Oscar came for his portrayal of Broadway song-and-dance man George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy. In all fairness, he deserved an Oscar just for the way he tap-danced down the White House steps at the end of that film.
I think about those two things every time I think about all of the national championships that the University of Arizona men's basketball team woulda'/coulda'/shoulda' won over the past 25 years or so. Surely, that 1988 team, with Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr, was national championship material. And the next year's team, with the emergence of Kenny Lofton to complement the return of Elliott and Anthony Cook, should have gone all the way; no way they're losing in the Sweet 16 to an inferior UNLV team.
Guards win championships and in 1994, the UA had the best guard tandem—Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves—in the country. They should have been able to turn Arkansas's vaunted 40 Minutes of Hell into 40 Minutes of Mild Discomfort.
All that stuff about the refs favoring Duke is surely nonsense. If a 2001 season Blue Devil player is lying, spread-eagled, atop a Wildcat dribbler, that's got to be a foul, right? And, of course, there's no way that the Cats can blow a 15-point lead to Illinois in 2005, is there?
It is an enduring testament to the beauty and mystery of sports that, over the past quarter century of outstanding Arizona teams—blessed with excellent coaching, incredible fan support, magnificent facilities, and a treasure trove of future NBA stars--the only Wildcat squad to win a national title was one of the least likely. It was a team that was at least a year away, led by a freshman at the all-important position of point guard. It had at the No. 2 spot a guy who was a scorer but not really a shooter. And the team's "big" guys were thinner than Miley Cyrus's talent.
After finishing fifth in the Pac-10 during the regular season, all they did was roll through the NCAAs, knocking off three No. 1 seeds on the way to the title. And not just three No. 1 seeds, but perhaps the three biggest names in the history of college basketball—Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
That team did wonders for the city of Tucson, and those guys are about to do it again. Next Friday, September 27, most of the players from that squad will gather with Hall of Fame Coach Lute Olson at the Fox Theater downtown for a screening of that 1997 NCAA Championship game. Proceeds from the event will go to Primavera Foundation and the (Joseph) Blair Charity Group.
In attendance that night will be 1997 team members Miles Simon, Eugene Edgerson, Michael Dickerson, Donnell Harris, Jason Terry, John Ash, Justin Wessel, Quynn Tebbs, Bennett Davison, and A.J. Bramlett. (Mike Bibby can't make it.) It is a testament to the players (and the coach who brought such high-quality people to Tucson and molded them into a championship team) that they would gather for such a good cause.
The $100 VIP tickets are probably long gone by now, but there are still $25 tickets available for the event at http://97cats.com/. There will be popcorn and other refreshments, along with competitions and raffle prizes. For more information, please go to primavera.org or blaircharitygroup.org.
It should be a wild night, especially since we already know the ending. And it's reassuring knowing that current UA coach Sean Miller is doing what he can to see to it that we can someday change the trivia question that begins "What's the only UA men's basketball team ever...?" to "What was the first UA men's basketball...?"