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Tom brags about all of the cool people he knows

I was watching the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race results come in last week, and I realized that in President Obama's first year in office, he burned through political capital with nothing to show for it. It was like Richard Pryor in Brewster's Millions.

I decided that I had to take action, so I grabbed my notebook and made a list of the 10 coolest people I know. It made me feel so good that I was able to switch over to ESPN to watch SportsCenter.

I highly recommend this list-making endeavor. You can tell a lot about yourself by how cool your friends are. For example, if your coolest friend is Mayor Bob Walkup, you should probably check for your name in the obituary archives.

Just a couple of rules here: When it comes to "coolness," there are no real criteria. It's like the Most Valuable Player award in sports; MVP-ness is in the eye of the beholder. (Family members don't count; my jock-nerdy kids are cool as hell.)

To be on your list, a person has to actually know you. I mean, I'm sure that Hugh Grant is the absolute coolest person in the world, but I don't actually know him ... although I feel that I do. But I really don't, even though I watched Love Actually again yesterday, and I think he'd make an outstanding prime minister.

Let's define a "friend" as someone who would warmly acknowledge you when you enter a room. I recently interviewed Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash. We had a nice talk, but if I ran into him again, he wouldn't know me, unless he thought, "Hey, that's the guy who was staring at my plate of pasta as he was interviewing me."

Which is not true; it was the sandwich next to the pasta.

I suppose my definition of coolness would be based partly on that old hip saying, "He knows what he's about." Of course, that saying is so old, the person at whom it was directed was probably wearing bellbottom pants and platform shoes with goldfish in them.

Here's my list. If I left anybody off, I'm sorry. I was watching Fox "News" at the time, so it was hard to focus on reality.

10. Allen Kath (the Traffic Guy). I was out in my front yard one day, taking down Christmas decorations, and up drives Allen with a Popeye's Chicken box. Of course, the box was empty, but he had taken the time to offer me proof that the Popeye's on Kolb Road and 22nd Street had re-opened. (Lots of people e-mailed me with that info, and I thank them.)

9. Dave Fitzsimmons (Arizona Daily Star cartoonist). He's as big of a slob as I am, and, on a per-capita basis, he probably pisses off more people than I do. High praise, indeed.

8. Rebecca Chilton-Peoples. I don't get to see her much these days; she's an assistant basketball coach at Arkansas State University. She and I coached together at Amphi back in the late '90s, and we disagreed about everything. It was great. She's got this year-round tan like that woman in There's Something About Mary. All of my friends think she's really good-looking, but I just think she's full of crap. But cool.

7 and 6. Richard Paige and Tom Duddleston. These two guys, flip sides of the same coin, absolutely kill me. They're the top media-relations guys in the UA Athletic Department (Richard does basketball; Tom does football) and are two of the funniest people I know. Their senses of humor are so dry, we should call one of them Gobi, and the other Sahara.

5. Catherria Turner. She's the most dominant high school basketball player (boy or girl) I've ever seen. Still in her mid-20s, she's an assistant coach at Portland, and I have no doubt that she will be a Division I head coach in a very short time.

4. Jimmy Kimmel. Yes, that guy. He used to do the KRQ morning show back in the early 1990s. We also got kicked out of several local golf resorts. I'll tell you that story some other time.

3. Rob Tatum. I've known this guy since he was a young (shall we say) free spirit. He has since turned into this almost shockingly responsible adult. He and I do a lot of basketball stuff together. We coached against each other one season. (I'm 2-0 against him, thank you very much.) He, like just about everybody else, thinks I'm the worst coach in America and that my winning percentage is based on some deal I made with the devil.

2. Vern Friedli. The winningest high school football coach in Arizona history still does things the same as when he started at Amphi in 1976, and it still works. He really knows what he's about.

1. Mel Dixon. This university-area dentist may be the coolest person on Earth. He's been honored by the United Nations for his humanitarian efforts; he was a star athlete in high school and college; his grandfather was Morgan Maxwell, the principal of the all-black Dunbar School and the person for whom Maxwell Middle School is named; and just for fun, Mel wrote a song that hit No. 1 in Europe.

I'm way cooler just for knowing him.

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