After the UA football victory over ASU in Tempe in 2001, I witnessed ASU fans launching nasty racial slurs at departing Arizona fans. It got to the point where I actually confronted some of those fans.
Unfortunately, followers of the red and blue are starting to become the new Arizona State. Arizona fans, let's fix this before things get out of hand.
It started opening night against Brigham Young University, when I was shocked to hear ugly Mormon remarks shouted at BYU players by fans in the stands. It's one thing to poke fun at a player, but taunts based on race or religion step over the line. I understand that the UA administration had to intervene.
On Sept. 23, I witnessed a group of drunken 20-something Arizona fans verbally abuse a 70-something couple who were supporting the University of Southern California. The couple was doing little more than cheering for the Trojans, yet UA fans' taunts included f-bombs toward the pair, and the word "bitch" being specifically directed toward the elderly lady. I also saw one male Arizona fan actually push down a young female USC backer, causing a near riot in the stands. These actions shocked me to the point where I reported the incidents to a UA police officer.
The next week, during the University of Washington game, fans upset with a call proceeded to bombard the field with debris. For a moment, I thought I was at a Bolivian soccer match. While the call on the field was a bad one, throwing things from the stands causes dangers that debris-throwing idiots are obviously too dumb to comprehend.
A loud, rowdy crowd is a great game-day experience, and can be beneficial for the home team. However, actions should have some boundaries. The level of play by the Wildcats can be frustrating, but that should not be a catalyst for boorish behavior.
I recently spoke to a friend who traveled to Baton Rouge for the Arizona/Louisiana State University football game. Louisiana State fans have the reputation for being among the most rabid around. My friend and his two comrades decided to tour the tailgate party area near the stadium, and did so while proudly wearing their Arizona gear. My friend was astonished that the trio was welcomed into several LSU tailgate parties. They were treated to food and drink, and left the pre-game activities blown away by the Southern hospitality.
Former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith once noted that his program wasn't the whole university, but it was the front porch. It was what people thought of first when they thought of the school. Arizona's football team is struggling to gain positive notice around the Pac-10 and the nation. Arizona fans could be considered the front porch for the program, and their behavior will help people around the conference and the country determine what they think of the school and our city.
I can only imagine what visiting fans at recent games are saying about us back in their hometowns. We know what we say about the people in Tempe.