My kids went back to school this week, meaning that instead of taking up space in front of the TV all day, they're learning how to be (hopefully) productive members of society.
Which means yours truly no longer has the excuse of parenting to hide behind, and therefore must get back to providing this paper's readership with some actual sports column substance.
Until then, I bring you another round of random, unprovoked, unsolicited commentary on a handful of topics that at least can be minimally argued as pertinent to the average sports fan in Southern Arizona.
Toros/Padres Thirsty Thursday: The next four Thursdays may be your last chance for a while to pay just a buck for a cold brew on a hot night while at a ballgame, because the Tucson Padres are set to skip town for a new stadium in El Paso, Texas—yes, Tucsonans, we've been upstaged by that armpit of a city.
To commemorate this final spate of budget brew-swilling, the Thirsty Thursday promotions for the remainder of the season (tonight, Aug. 15, Aug. 22 and Aug. 29) will also be throwback occasions, with Padres players donning Tucson Toros jerseys from the 1990s.
The T-Pads went even further into the wayback machine in June when they rolled out the Toros' 1981 uniform atrocities—think blue, yellow, orange and brown, with diagonal stripes—for a turn-back-the-clock night. The August Thirsty Thursdays, with $1 beers and soft drinks from 6 to 9 p.m., will provide fans with one last reminder of what they've squandered by not supporting professional baseball in this community.
I took the family to a Bark in the Park game a week ago, schlepping three kids, two dogs and a lovely wife to a Sunday night doubleheader that was as enjoyable a baseball experience as anything you'd find at Chase Field. Sadly, we were among maybe 1,000 in the stands.
Cherish what you're getting El Paso. Don't take it for granted.
Ragtag 'professional' lineup: If you're a Diamondbacks fan, you've had to feel pretty good at times about the team's chances of making the playoffs this year. But following the lineup they put out for a game last week, it's time to think otherwise.
Due to injuries, ineffectiveness and manager Kirk Gibson's stream-of-consciousness approach to lineup determination, last Thursday the D'backs fielded a team that included players with the following names or nicknames: Cody, Didi, Goldy, Spanky, Tuffy and Zeke.
Alfalfa and Buckwheat weren't available.
Amazingly, though, Arizona remains in the playoff hunt. So, while the D'backs might be lacking in big-name (!) talent, they more than make up for it in scrappiness and spunk. They're a fun team to watch, whether it be the amazing superstar metamorphosis of Paul Goldschmidt or the potential nightly train wreck that is the Heath Bell Experience.
Upgraded inertia: About five months ago I was prompted to turn in my magenta Desert Diamond Rewards card for a swanky, new blue card, with the promise that "very soon" this card would serve as the gateway to me accessing a variety of new rewards while frequenting the casinos of the Tohono O'odham Nation.
Last weekend I traded in that blue card for ... another blue card. But this time with a star in the upper right-hand corner. Then I was given the old blue one back, since they're both good, at least until all of the slot machines are converted from one gaming system to another. Something that, according to some glossy bilingual leaflets will be done ... by Sept. 16, when the new system will "provide a more exciting gaming experience."
Quarter Midget love: From the Things I've Written About in the Past Department: The next season of Tucson Quarter Midgets Association racing begins next month in Marana.
Entering its 20th year of operation, the little blacktop track that could (you've whizzed past it hundreds of times on the west side of Interstate 10 just north of the new Twin Peaks Road interchange) is open for practice.
As can be seen on the TQMA Facebook page, preparations are being made for the first races of the 2013-14 season on Sept. 7 and 8. Even if you don't have a kid who might be interested in participating, checking out one of these races looks like a fun family outing.
Notebook table scraps: The UA football team began preseason camp last Saturday night, with the first official scrimmage set for this Saturday, Aug. 10, as part of a three-day training regimen at Fort Huachuca, next to Sierra Vista. I plan on being in attendance, assuming I get military clearance. ... The new Arizona hoops "official" Twitter page, @APlayersProgram, entered this week (its third in existence) with just under 5,000 followers. ASU's had just over 2,800, or one for every 1.7 tweets the account has sent out since June 2011. ... The ninth annual Arizona State Poker Championship is being held this weekend at Casino Arizona's Talking Stick Resort near Scottsdale. The $1,080 buy-in (plus another $30 for extra chips) will likely draw more than 1,000 players over three opening flights, with the winner being crowned Aug. 13 and getting more than $200,000. Noted poker professional Phil Hellmuth is among the confirmed participants.