My last season covering the Arizona men's basketball team was 2004-2005, a season any self-respecting Wildcat fan will remember as the one that ended with "the Choke."
Leading top-seeded Illinois by 15 points with about five minutes left in the Elite Eight, it appeared the UA was on the way to its fifth Final Four. I was so convinced of this that during the under-four-minutes-left TV timeout I logged onto Southwest Airlines' website, hoping to secure the cheapest possible flight from Tucson to the finals in St. Louis.
I recall remarking to the Daily Oklahoman reporter sitting next to me courtside at the Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago that Arizona's postseason run had me not knowing when I'd see my family again. For a three-week span it had been a whirlwind of trips to Los Angeles; Boise, Idaho; and then Chicago, with hardly any downtime at home in between.
Then, in what seemed like a blink of an eye to those of us who would need to write about it—the UA squandered its seemingly insurmountable lead, went to overtime and ultimately was sent home while Illinois moved on.
Once the interviews were done and the stories were filed, it was back to the hotel to pack up for a return to ... well, the real world.
The NCAA college basketball tournament can be such an immersive, all-consuming endeavor for those who are covering it, that when it comes to an end it feels like a giant void needs to be filled. But based on what I've seen over the years, for Wildcats fans the moments just after the final buzzer of the final UA hoops game can be like stepping out of a fallout shelter to find the entire world has been obliterated.
That's why I'm here to tell you: It's going to be OK.
It's been a week now, but many of you may just now be crawling out from under a desk to see if there are still signs of life. And now that you've found that the sun did come up again—you're suddenly in need of things to keep you entertained while you count down the days until next season's Red-Blue game.
That's still more than six months away, giving you plenty of time to experience some new forms of entertainment. And, yes, there are things to do around here other than root for UA athletics.
* Marana Main Street Festival (Saturday, April 6): For a town that's known to most people only as that area you drive past on your way to Phoenix, it sure does throw some good parties. Along with its Fourth of July and Founder's Day events, the Main Street Festival is a mix of food, music and some oddball activities that even the most picky sports fan could enjoy. I'm quite intrigued by the Bed Race, a sort of white trash version of team bobsled that involves four people pushing (and one person riding on) a bed on wheels.
* Tucson Roller Derby Dust Devil Tournament (Saturday and Sunday, April 13 and 14): You've got chicks on wheels wearing skimpy outfits and trying to knock the snot of out each other. Need I go on? Tucson Roller Derby has been around since 2003 and played in various venues, the latest of which is called the Wreckhouse (1145 E. Valencia Road). The Dust Devil tourney is a chance to see a bunch of teams battle it out all at one time, something that's definitely worth the price of admission.
* Pima County Fair (April 18-28): The food is awesome, the rides and games are cool and the musical options are all over the map, style-wise. But it's the "only at the fair" kind of attractions that keep drawing me to the fairgrounds to inhale an unhealthy amount of dust. A careful scan of this year's lineup of "entertainment" has me champing at the bit to watch the Frisbee dogs and get reacquainted with my all-time favorite fair act, the pig races. I still have my first 'MY PIG WON' ribbon hanging on my bedroom wall.
* High school spring sports playoffs (April 23-May 14): Call me a softie, but I'm a sucker for prep sports. The pay-to-play club sports scene is cutthroat, competitive and short-sighted, but when those same kids are playing for their schools, there's a genuine for-love-of-the-game feel to it all. The spring season features them vying for individual and team titles in baseball, softball, tennis, track and volleyball, and there are plenty of locals with a chance to win it all. Sadly, though, after the first few days of the postseason you'll have to trek north to cheer on the neighborhood school. The Arizona (read: Maricopa County) Interscholastic Association has placed the finals for every sport in the Phoenix area.
These are just a few of your post-hoops options. And don't forget there's one more season of unappreciated minor league baseball, as well as another summer of FC Tucson soccer, to enjoy. They're a great way to pass the time, and much better than dwelling on what might have happened if Grant Jerrett and Nick Johnson had not gotten mixed up on a switch and left an Ohio State player wide open to crush the hopes and dreams of Wildcat Nation. Remember, it's going to be OK.