Notes from the UA Homecoming Weekend

First off, I've been waiting a good long time for somebody else to say it, but since nobody has, I will. This football team sucks.

And be certain of this: They don't suck because the only team they've beaten all year is a Division I-AA team from Flagstaff; or because they've lost seven games in a row in blowouts and blown leads, missed opportunities and bizarre circumstances. That would at least make them colorful. Instead, they just suck.

Oh, I've read all the stuff about how they'll be infinitely better next year. Well, maybe they will, and maybe they won't.

All I know is that they're not even as good as last year's team, and that squad sucked on toast.

The defense, which kept them in games early in the season and gave the Cats the chance to be the only team to have beaten Wisconsin this season and the opportunity to be 1-0 in the Pac-10 and 3-1 overall (and doesn't that seem like a millions of years ago?), is being beaten down and has lost its fire.

Meanwhile, the offense is in danger of being hauled into court any day now and charged with assault with a dead weapon. This group couldn't offend a Jehovah's Witness.

· The crowd was thin; the weather was uncomfortably cool and windy; the halftime Homecoming festivities were endless; Peter Likins got roundly booed (almost certainly for his obsession with the tortilla-tossing-at-graduation issue), and then we still had to sit through the game.

· Early in the season, when there was still hope, I was bothered by the amount of shit-talking and taunting and showboating that went on among certain Wildcat players. First of all, I hate all that stuff, which, I guess, officially makes me old.

I had a discussion about this the other day with my friend and (somewhat younger) coaching colleague, Jon. He sees nothing wrong with celebrating after making a play. I, on the other hand, think that if you make a play, instead of dancing or beating your chemically inflated chest or pointing to heaven (like God really gives a shit who wins, let alone who makes a freakin' tackle), you should get your sorry butt back over to the other side of the line and get ready to make another play. Then, at the end of the game, whichever team has made the most good plays will almost certainly win, which is all you should care about, anyway.

However, there is a point of compromise that separates the real men from the stuck-in-hip-hop-mode losers. Where and when I came from, you didn't talk if you were losing. You used all of your breath and energy and focus to try to tie the game and then to take the lead.

These days, if you run your fat mouth and get in trouble with the law and you win, you can play for the University of Miami. If you do all that stuff and you lose, you just shouldn't do all that stuff.

· The Homecoming queen, a Ms. Kelli Winkle, is in the band! This is a major leap forward for a university at which something like 279 out of the last 280 Homecoming queens have been generic sorority women.

For decades, the entire process seemed to be rigged. This was probably because the Doug Niedermeyer-clone frat guys who ran the student government also ran the Bobcats (the group in charge of picking the queen). Every year, the queen was blonde and blue-eyed and pleasant and completely interchangeable.

But this year, she has light brown hair with blonde highlights, and blue-green eyes. And she's in the band! OK, she plays the cymbals, but she still has to know how to walk in a straight line and make sharp turns and stuff.

This is real progress. Why, in a couple generations, the Homecoming queen might even be Hispanic. And not Cameron Diaz in-name-only Hispanic. I mean dark hair and (gasp!) dark eyes.

· We left at halftime because my son had a computer engineering project to work on. As we got down to Sixth Street, a full shuttle bus was pulling out en route to the Tucson Mall with hundreds and hundreds of people.

The Cats were only down 14-0 at the time, but with this squad, that's like being that far behind in a soccer game. They ended up losing by that same margin, 28-14, but you just had the feeling that the game was close until it started.

· I got home in time to watch North Carolina upset aforementioned Miami. Right before the end of the game, the stadium announcer said sternly, "Please do not come onto the field after the game is over."

The field was soon covered with giddy students in a display of why college athletics are infinitely preferable to the pro games.

I look forward to the time when the UA announcer has to make that kind of plea at Arizona Stadium. Right now, we're still at the point of "Please don't leave the stadium until the second half has started ... unless your son has homework."

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