If you're still driving around in a VW bus with a "Kill Your Television" bumper sticker on it, this column isn't for you. If you spend time figuring out how to procure medical (or even non-medical) marijuana, it's probably not for you. And if you're one of those people who lament the fact that Downtown Tucson is no longer a slum in which the four major forms of commerce were dive bars, tattoo parlors, bus-station muggings, and the manufacture of "This Space For Rent" signs ... well, it's damn sure not for you.
I want everybody else to join me in recognizing the greatest day in Tucson history. No, it wasn't the day Wyatt Earp killed Frank Stillwell at the train station. Nor was it the time that future Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh landed at Davis-Monthan Air Field. It wasn't even the time that Public Enemy Number One John Dillinger was captured at Hotel Congress. Henceforth, the greatest day in Tucson history—at least until star-visitors arrive from Kepler 186f and land on Fourth Avenue where they would feel most welcome—shall be universally recognized as Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, the day that the UA Wildcats exorcized any and all demons and achieved football immortality.
By now (unless you live in your VW bus and have also killed your radio), you know that Arizona completed a most-unlikely trifecta. By beating Arizona State, the Cats:
• Won back the Territorial Cup;
• Beat the Sun Devils for the first time in the Coach Rich Rodriguez era and;
• Combined the win with a UCLA loss to Stanford to win the first outright championship in UA football history. (There have been some funky two- and three-way ties in the past, but this Pac 12-South title is historic.)
By this time next year, about 400,000 people will have been among the 56,000 people who were actually at Arizona Stadium for the game. Millions more watched the game on TV or listened to it on the radio. My two kids were in New York City to watch a Cornell hockey game at Madison Square Garden and read about it on the ticker thing in Times Square.
Somewhat unfortunately, I had to watch it in the Press Box at Arizona Stadium, which is an oddly sterile environment. While 50,000 football fanatics might be screaming their lungs out down in the stadium, inside the working media part of the Press Box, it's as quiet as an Intensive Care Unit inside a library inside a church.
This is usually not such a bad deal. On those early September nights when the humidity and temperature numbers are both in the high double digits, it's pretty nice being in an air-conditioned place with free soda. But it also has its drawbacks. The media area is quiet both by design and through enforcement. The giant windows are made of a see-through material that's thicker than Urkel's glasses. Those windows work so well that the media folks have to be reminded to stand for the playing of the National Anthem because we literally can't hear the band playing even one note. (They also keep it colder than a meat locker in there in a further attempt to keep the herd from getting unruly. On non-game days, they could seriously use that room for making microchips.)
That means that down on the field, Samajie Grant can be catching a short pass and then zig-zagging for 70 incredible yards to score a spectacular touchdown and the people in the Sensory Deprivation Press Box have to sit there like mamooches, each one making a face like Jack Nicholson's after he got the lobotomy in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" and uttering not a sound. And so it was that I came to witness the greatest moment in UA football history feeling like Keir Dullea skimming the surface of Jupiter in "2001." All sight, no sound. Too much visual stimulation and nothing aural.
Tomorrow, Arizona will play Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game, with the winner having a great shot at making the inaugural college football Final Four. The downside of all this is that athletic directors from all over America will be making runs at Coach Rodriguez with wallets opened wide. Mostly they'll be coming from the South, where football is a religion and not just a really fun game. In a way, we've been spoiled by mediocrity. The only people who made a run at the previous coach, Mike Stoops, were wearing white coats and carrying a giant butterfly net. We have to hope that Rodriguez and his family love the area, the facilities, the support and that the Coach believes he's in a place where he can make a serious run at a national title.
On the way out of the stadium, I saw one of my volleyball players, Christina. She had attended the game with her dad, who, like a lot of long-time fans, had on his face a look that could best be described as one of serenity. It's like "Thank God I lived to see this, after all those weird bounces, unfulfilled promises, bad breaks, and outright choke jobs over the years."
The oddest thing about the whole glorious day is that it feels like it's just the start of something.