Former University of Arizona basketball star Steve Kerr was playing for the Chicago Bulls when, one night, his teammate, the legendary Michael Jordan, went off for 50 points. Kerr managed to throw in a couple of shots as well. After the game, Kerr told reporters that he looked forward to telling his grandkids about the night that he and Michael Jordan combined for 55 points.
I think about that story whenever I look back at the origins of the Best of Tucson®. (I can't believe it's been 25 years.) We had an early meeting that included then-owner Doug Biggers, then-editor Howard Allen, then-columnist Jeff Smith, then-struggling-science-writer Barbara Kingsolver, and then- (as now) me. I'll always be able to say that I worked with the great Barbara Kingsolver on a project, with each of us pounding out blurbs at $5 a pop.
I kinda lost track of Barbara. I know she wrote a whole bunch of best-selling novels. But I recently heard a rumor that she went off the deep end and started eating healthy food. See, that's what success does to you.
In the beginning, I was deeply involved with the Best of Tucson®. I felt the need to offer a counterbalance to the often-strong downtown-centric bent of things. One time, the late Chris Limberis and I almost got kicked out of a staff meeting at the Temple of Music and Art because we kept goofing on the staff picks.
I was able to sneak in a few things over the years. I once wrote a staff pick that included "Kierkegaard" and "Popeye's Chicken" in the same sentence. But I understand that the Best of Tucson® is the People's Issue, where Tucsonans get to have their say as to what's good in town, and what's great.
One thing that's fun to look at is the evolution of the categories over the years. There will always be Best Pizza, but there are categories these days that nobody would have ever dreamed possible, like Best Blog, a category we tried a couple of years ago. Imagine suggesting Best Blog in 1989. Back then, people would have thought that "blog" was the sound a cowpie made when deposited in a swamp.
Conversely, somewhere along the line, we had to drop Best Place to Buy a Pager from our list of categories.
Obviously, there are some categories that will never see the light of day, things like Best Tea Party Idea or Best Furniture at a South Tucson Mexican Restaurant. Food: great! Chairs: not so much.
Still, I wonder what new categories we'll have 25 years from now. Will we have gone all George Jetson and have Best Place to Park Your Hovercraft? Will we bow to other technology and have Best Wall in Your House on Which to Watch the Just-Released Movie Blockbuster?
Here are some categories I thought up for the 2036 Best of Tucson®. They cover a variety of topics and have three possibilities each, based on whether one is optimistic, pessimistic or just realistic about where we and Tucson will be a quarter-century from now. They are:
• OPTIMISTIC: Best New Business That Sprang Up and Thrived Along the Route Covered by the Modern Street Car
PESSIMISTIC: Best Use for an Abandoned Modern Street Car
REALISTIC: Best Place to Get Tie-Dye Stuff on Fourth Avenue
• OPTIMISTIC: Best Public School
PESSIMISTIC: Best Charter School
REALISTIC: Best Private School
• OPTIMISTIC: Best UAs Rose Bowl Team Over the Past Quarter-Century
PESSIMISTIC: Best Reason Why the Cats Should Drop Out of the Pac-24
REALISTIC: Best Ticket Packages for the Upcoming Casa Grande Bowl
• OPTIMISTIC: Best Local Politician
PESSIMISTIC: Best State Politician
REALISTIC: Best National Politician With Lots and Lots of Money
• OPTIMISTIC: Best Time to Drive to Gates Pass
PESSIMISTIC: Best Memories of Gates Pass
REALISTIC: Best Subdivision on Gates Pass
• (REALLY) OPTIMISTIC: Best Daily Newspaper
PESSIMISTIC: Best Political Party PR Handouts
REALISTIC: Best Part of The Huffington Post
And finally, here's hoping that this enterprise is still going strong in 2036. I guess the options are:
• OPTIMISTIC: The Best of Tucson®
PESSIMISTIC: The Best of What's Left of Tucson
REALISTIC: The Best of Marana