Sunday, November 26, 2017

How I learned to Bear Down with the best of them

Arizona mascot, Wilbur Wildcat
By Tom Walker
For much too long, I have been bedeviled by a secret. Now, I just have to come clean.
Although we live in the city of Tucson, home of the (Bear Down) University of Arizona Wildcats, my wife Linda and I are graduates of that hated school 100 miles to the north in Tempe, Arizona State University.
In our defense, we’ve called Tucson home more than forty years, far longer than the time it took to get our ASU degrees and get out of that place. We’ve seldom been back since then, and I’m certain I’d be as lost now as I was all those years ago when I first wandered down its citrus-smelling streets.
I grew up in Wickenburg, so ASU was my school of choice, much closer than that other university hiding way down in the southern part of the state. Linda was from faraway North Carolina, but her mother and step-father lived in Mesa; so ASU was the only sensible option.
Those are our excuses, feeble as they might be.
I went to a few ASU football games, back in the days when Frank Kush was beating up on the hapless UA Wildcats regularly. But I never was much of a fan. There were far more interesting things at ASU than big guys with Sparky on their helmets. Girls, for one thing. Girls, for another.
Anyway, Linda and I got married during our senior year, and soon after that, we left ASU for good. After a time in the U.S. Air Force, we landed in Tucson  and have been there ever since. Our children went to school there and Linda and I both spent our careers in Tucson.
We are Tucsonans, through and through. I’m a big fan of the UA basketball team, and I grieve every time the Wildcats flame out all too soon in March Madness. I still own an official National Championship jersey from 1997, and I think Coach Sean Miller is destined to guide his team to another one soon.
And yet, there’s that nagging little thing that surfaces anytime we mention where we went to college. “Oh, well – we went to that other school. You know, the one up the road a piece?”
I want to take this occasion once and for all to divorce myself from any loyalty that I might still have to the Sun Devils. Friday’s football game, which ASU won 42-30, did it for me. There were no dirty plays, no bad calls that changed the game, just bad luck. Khalil Tate, the Wildcats’ brilliant sophomore quarterback, got banged up near the end of the first half, and that changed the game. Oh, that and an injury depleted defense, and special teams that weren't all that special.
Two things happened in the second half: without Tate, the Wildcats lost the momentum and the game, and I stopped being, even peripherally, an ASU fan. I felt the same kind of sadness for Coach Rich Rodriguez and his team that I’ve felt for the UA basketball teams through the years.
I always looked forward to the start of basketball season as a form of rescue from the usually dismal football year. Now I’m anxious to continue with basketball, anxious to see the Wildcats correct whatever went wrong in Battle 4 Atlantis. And I’m excited about the upcoming softball and baseball seasons, too.
And now at last, here’s something that I’ve wanted to say for a long time, without reservation: Bear down, Arizona, bear down!

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