The day started for me at 4 a.m. Being neither a carouser nor a masochist, I am adamantly unfamiliar with 4 o'clock in the morning. In fact, if someone had asked me to identify that particular time, I would have had to say, "I've heard of it, but my personal experience therewith is, blessedly, lacking."
It was Len Johnson on the phone. He does live remotes for the Good Morning, Tucson show on Channel 9. He had called the day before and asked if I would be on the show. I couldn't really understand what he was saying on the answering machine, what with his voice being drowned out by the sound of his scraping the very bottom of the local celebrity barrel. I had called him back to ask him what I was supposed to wear, seeing as how no one will ever accuse me of being a slave to fashion.
So he calls me at 4 o'clock in the morning to tell me to dress casually. That's like telling most people to breathe or giving George W. Bush lessons on how to say "nook-you-lur." I'm sorry, but when the phone rings at 4 a.m., it had better be your best friend calling, and he damn well better be in jail.
I drive up to McKale Center around 6:15 and there's a line of people there. They're hoping that there will be a few tickets for sale to that day's first-round NCAA Basketball Tournament games. While many first-round venues are half-full, McKale sold out months ago. Tucson is, if nothing else, a basketball town.
The people at the front of the line had camped out at McKale all night. Most of them in line had driven over from El Paso to see their Miners play Utah. They all had on bright-orange sweatshirts and were disgustingly upbeat. During a commercial break, Len was talking to some of them, and this one very-outgoing young woman kept saying, "El Paso is the friendliest city in Texas." She must have said it five times.
First of all, El Paso is in Texas strictly by geographic accident. It's way more like southern New Mexico in style and content. Plus, saying that it's the friendliest city in Texas is like saying that Hillary Clinton was the smartest person in Arkansas. How hard can that be?
Anyway, they came back from the break, and Len decided to talk to the woman live on camera. He asked about El Paso, and the woman, having rehearsed for her 15 seconds of fame, smiled and said, "El Paso is the friendliest city in El Paso."
I left around 7 and went home to watch the baseball players and officials squirm in front of Congress. What a circus. Congressmen were lobbing word grenades at the players, and these big, giant players (many of whom used to bigger and giant-er just a few short years ago) kept trying to dance.
Back in the 1960s, the Detroit Pistons had a thug named Reggie Harding playing center. The NBA didn't pay a whole lot back then, so Reggie tried to supplement his income by robbing liquor stores. Seeing as how he was 6 foot 11 and 275 pounds and was robbing stores in his own neighborhood, he kept getting caught, after which he'd wonder aloud if someone had ratted him out or if he was just unlucky. Reggie Harding died in a shootout with the police after police broke into his apartment and spotted him trying to hide from them by lying down behind his 5-foot-long couch.
And so it was that Mark McGwire kept trying to hide behind his 145-pound lawyer. A sad spectacle. It was like The Maury Povich Show, when some guy will come on and say, "Yeah, I had sex with my girl's sister, her mom, her brother (I was really drunk that night), the landlady, and skanky-ass Christina Aguilera. But that was in the past. I love you, Baby. Let's move forward."
McGwire gutted himself on national TV by leaving out all the details and skipping to the "Let's move forward" part. Does he not understand that if he had just said, "Yeah, I used steroids, but it was wrong to have done so," the average sports fan would shrug and forgive?
I spent the rest of the day watching basketball. I sweated out the UA game against Utah State and then relaxed the rest of the night. I even stayed up to watch ASU get smacked by UNLV in the NIT. I felt bad for Ike Diogu for about two seconds, but then I noticed that it was well past midnight.
That 4 in the morning thing was coming back around again, and there's no damn way you should experience two of them in a 25-hour period. Still, I had seen a sunrise and a sunset; the Cats had won; the Devils had lost; and Mark McGwire had made a fool of himself. As Ice Cube says, "I guess it was a good day."