Last week, I had a rare opportunity. Both the Pima Community College women and the University of Arizona women were playing in town on the same night, and not at the same time.
A lot of people don't know that Pima has a women's basketball team. Or, judging by the size of the "crowd," that Pima even has a gymnasium.
Pima is coached by Todd Holthaus, a big, hulking guy who looks like he could have been in the original cast of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, ready to drag Julie Newmar away by her hair. Holthaus had built the Flowing Wells High School girls' program into a perennial state-title contender, and then made the leap onto Joan Bonvicini's staff at the UA.
Some questioned why Holthaus would leave the UA for Pima, but he appears to be having the time of his life. His undermanned and undersized team plays claw-your-eyes-out, man-to-man defense and manages to stay in some games that they probably shouldn't. His Aztecs won their first three games this season, then promptly lost five in a row--including a couple in the last minutes--before beating Scottsdale-based Southwestern College (which had an all-white roster!) that night. I swear, every year, new schools pop up in the Phoenix area like pimples on prom night.
Pima is led by point guard Jessie "Squeaky" Ingraham. We call her Squeaky, because her voice sounds like someone's torturing a cat. She's one of the best passers I've ever seen, but on that night, all I could hear from the crowd was, "She's open! She's open! Look up! Pass the ball!" The screams came from an assortment of people who obviously don't know a lick about basketball, but just want to see their relative/friend/girlfriend shoot the ball. It's very annoying.
Oh yeah, Southwestern had on its roster a kid named Angela Massa, who had played at Sierra Vista Buena, near Fort Huachuca. I sure hope she likes her first name, so she wouldn't have to tell people, "Please call me 'Massa.'"
Then it was over to the UA game. Every time I see them play, I get the feeling that the program hasn't recovered from the death of Shawntinice Polk a couple of years back. They play hard, but there's an emptiness, and not just in the seats.
Speaking of which, even in the year that they shared the Pac-10 title with Stanford, they usually didn't draw more than a couple thousand fans a night. Now, it's not even that high. But that means that I can sit just about anywhere I want. I like to sit up at the top of the second level, away from people, so I can just watch the game.
So that night, I get there and proceed to the seat in which I sit every game--and there's a guy sitting there! There are literally 500 seats in that section, and the only seat that's occupied is my seat! I stand around for a couple of minutes; I don't want to sit right in front or behind him, because that would be weird. So I head down to the other end of that row, when a guy comes out of the bathroom and sits in the other end seat of the same row!
I now figure that they've run out of B-list celebrities on Punk'd, and they're going after normal folk. Two seats out of 500, and they're the two ends of the row in which I usually sit. I shrug and figure I'll go sit a couple of rows in front of the first guy; maybe he'll move. I go around the concourse to get an overpriced soda ($4 for a "large," and it comes with a saddle-shaped lid that was obviously designed by whoever finished dead-last in the engineering department that year). They charge $4 for that soda, and they still "need" a 10 percent tuition increase? I smell a scandal.
The pep band absolutely rocks. They even play Parliament's "Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)" without sounding like a pep band. But then there are cheerleaders. Some 9,000 years from now, when future historians are done studying the period of Gilead (not many sports columns have Margaret Atwood references), they're going to turn their attention to the phenomenon of cheerleaders. In an era when there are countless athletic opportunities for young women, there are still people willing to dress scantily and jump around in the hopes that even one person in the crowd gives a crap. I just don't understand.
Anyway, I go back, and seated exactly two rows ahead of the first guy are a mother and her three daughters. Now it's six out of 500. They could easily move down 30 rows closer to the action, and nobody would say a word. I figured that if it wasn't Punk'd, the only other possibility was The Twilight Zone, so I left.
I read in the paper the next day that the UA had won. There were no reports of paranormal activity.