THIS YEAR I tried my hardest to have the editors go with an All-Sports Best of Tucson issue, but one of them just smiled and picked up the phone without it having rung, while the other made a note on a pad which read "Look into hiring building security."
Tucson is quite obviously a sports town, with mountains to climb, trails to hike, golf courses to worship, and microwaveable tennis courts just begging to be trod upon in the noonday sun. Some Tucsonans also like to watch.
So, here (in descending order) are the 10 best sporting events to see each year. Please note that the UA-ASU football game isn't on the list because it's not played in Tucson every year. Plus, this annual ass-whuppin' has become somewhat tedious. ASU stopped showing up around 1982.
The only people who can't wait for the game are masochists like Todd Judge, who drives around Tucson with the license plate "SDVLS." (It wasn't shortened for plate space; having gone to ASU, he thinks that's the proper spelling.)
The poor guy graduated from Columbine High, where all those kids got shot, and ASU, where graduates would probably shoot themselves if they weren't too drunk to hold a gun.
10. Pima College vs. Yavapai in Men's Soccer: I know, I know; this game isn't played in Tucson every year, either, but it's my list. I also pretty much hate soccer, but this game is amazing. It's our nationally-ranked Arabs against their nationally-ranked Arabs. These guys all have names that sound like the noise you make when you're choking on rice. But boy, can they play.
Alas, it is soccer, so all of the games end nil-nil, but for 90 minutes, they kick the ball around real hard.
9. Stanford vs. UA in Men's Basketball: No matter how good or bad Stanford is, the Cardinals always play Arizona tough at McKale Center. Plus, all you Republicans out there: admit it. You love seeing white people who can play ball really well and can also figure out their shooting percentage in their heads while hustling back on defense.
8. Canyon Del Oro vs. Salpointe in Girls Softball: What a matchup. Salpointe, with the best players money can buy, against CDO, with the best players who can squeeze into a terribly-overcrowded school on the upscale far north side of town.
It doesn't really matter who wins (because most people hate both schools, anyway) but the real treat is watching CDO coach Dee Dinota coaching at third base. A bundle of nuclear-intensity energy, she makes coaching third base into a full-contact sport. An absolute delight!
7. Arizona State vs. UA in Women's Basketball: This natural rivalry has been absolutely plowed under on the men's side, but it's alive and well with the women. UA Coach Joan Bonvicini has made the UA into a national power, but ASU is nipping at the Cats' heels. This should get nastier and nastier over the next few years.
6. Class 5A-South Track & Field Divisional Championships: I love a track meet, which apparently makes me very European. The competition is held on a Wednesday and Friday in mid-May. Top athletes from all 5A schools show up and go at it. Buena usually wins, mostly because the entire populations of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca is somehow eligible to run for the Buena High track team. It's always interesting to see which is higher: the number of points Buena scores or the number of athletes they bring to the meet.
(Plus, watch for that Danehy kid as she tries to repeat as 5A-South champ in the shot put next year.)
5. UCLA vs. UA in Women's Softball: The UA's greatest team playing the hated UCLA Bruins in the best sports venue in town. And no, it's not basketball in McKale. Mike Candrea's club has put together a dynasty which has solidified Arizona's name in the national sports consciousness and led a softball boom nationwide.
4. Salpointe vs. Amphitheater in Boys Basketball: These two neighboring schools have won the last six 5A-South titles between them and are favored to fight it out for the top spot again this year. An interesting sidelight: there's some serious animosity between Amphi Coach Pat Derksen and Salpointe Coach Brian Peabody. But beneath that outward animosity, deep down these two have a genuine dislike for one another.
3. UCLA vs. UA in Men's Basketball: The UA's second-greatest team playing the hated Bruins in the second-best sports venue in town. The only reason this is higher on the list is because more people can crowd into McKale than into Hillenbrand.
2. High-School Football Bookends: Sahuaro-Sabino to start the season and CDO-Amphi to end it: High-school football is still the greatest sports entertainment value in America and Tucson does it right. The season kicks off the Thursday before Labor Day with the annual eastside battle between Sahuaro and Sabino and ends the regular season with CDO-Amphi. In between are such gems as Bisbee-Douglas, Nogales-Rio Rico and Marana-Marana Mountain View. Put it this way: On autumn Friday nights your choices are high-school football or reruns of Nash Bridges, starring Don Johnson and Cheech Marin.
1. Desert View vs. Sunnyside in Boys Wrestling: This isn't that IQ-lowering stupidity on TV. This is real wrestling where young men starve themselves all week so they can grab each other's crotches and sniff each other's armpits. Prep wrestling can be intense, but the Southside Showdown between DV and Sunnyside is in a category all by itself. No other sporting event in town can match this for constant sound level per capita, especially if it's held in the migraine-inducing Sunnyside Gym, a building designed and built by people who went on a semester-long frat-boy drinking binge when they should have been studying acoustics. It's the loudest, wildest, and best sports event of the year.
There's my Top 10. If you have your own list, well, that's nice.