Pedersen on Sports

Sure, basketball season is upon us, but try not to forget about the other Wildcat teams

There's a common misconception that Tucson doesn't have seasons. False.

We experience seasonal changes like the rest of the world. They're just not the standard cookie-cutter quadrants of spring, summer, fall and winter.

For instance, while most of the U.S. is going through winter in January and March, Tucsonans are instead dealing with tourist season. It's the time when you're best off staying at home, not because it's too cold to do anything—it's actually quite nice—but because there are so many out-of-towners around, the roads are ridiculously congested and all the good restaurants are full.

In July and August, sometimes even into September, we have what's known as monsoon season. (But DON'T call it a season unless you want me to go off about redundancies; I'll bombard you with so many "broke a new record" and "the team won its first game to improve to 1-0" references that you won't be able to think straight.)

And then we have what is arguably Tucson's favorite annual time period: UA basketball season.

It made a brief appearance two weeks ago when 14,000 people forked over money (only $5, but still ...) to watch the Arizona men's basketball team in a practice game. Yes, we talkin' 'bout practice. Practice!

Like a "cold front" moving through Arizona in August that drops the high into the low 90s for a day, the Red-Blue scrimmage served as a glimpse of what would soon come, and couldn't come soon enough, judging by the tweets, Facebook references and overwhelmingly unnecessary local TV coverage.

The real deal began in earnest earlier this week when the Wildcats played an exhibition against Augustana College, a tiny Lutheran school from South Dakota whose only purpose on Monday was to give Arizona a set of warm bodies to steal from and dunk over.

And the devoted who flocked to the McKale Center loved every second of it.

This will be the 20th UA hoops season I've lived through in person. And although, as an Arizona alum and college basketball lover, I consider myself a Wildcats fan (when not covering the team, mind you), as the years have gone by I've become jaded about the way this community obsesses about "our Cats."

Especially when it comes to flat out ignoring everything else. Even other UA teams.

Arizona's football team is now 5-2, playing well and getting close to a stretch at home that includes visits from UCLA and Oregon. But even with a win Saturday at California to go to 6-2, there would probably be at least 5,000 empty seats at Arizona Stadium for the Nov. 9 homecoming game.

Most of those who won't go will make some lame excuse about the inconvenient time the game is played—damn those TV people. The bitching and moaning last season about 7 and 7:30 p.m. kickoffs became a conniption fit when the 2012 homecoming game started at 11 a.m.

Yet a quick glance at the UA hoops schedule shows the following start times: noon, 3:15 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and, yes, even 9 p.m. For instance, Arizona's game against Fairleigh Dickinson in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament on Nov. 18 starts at 9—on a Monday night.

And McKale will be packed.

This isn't just a basketball-vs.-football issue. It's a hoops-are-all-that-matters-and-don't-try-to-tell-me-anything-else mentality that has manifested itself over the more than 25 years we've had one of the nation's best programs in our backyard.

But the fact is, it comes at the cost of giving attention to anything else.

For instance, did you know Arizona's women's cross country team is ranked No. 1 in the nation, something that's never happened before? Or that the UA women's volleyball team is having its best year in quite some time, and should be a force to reckon with during the NCAA tournament in December?

Or that the Wildcats women's soccer team still has a winning record this far into the season? (That's a huge deal, given the program is a combined 12-40-7 over the past three seasons.)

I know my examples make this column sound like a feminist rant, but those are just what I could come up with during the stream-of-consciousness process that most of these columns sprout from.

My point is, that as exciting as UA hoops is, and as much as we'd all like to see the Wildcats do well, the way it's treated like the be-all and end-all of existence gets annoying.

Even more so when fans get into "our" mode, referring to the Cats as "we" and "us," like you're part of the team. News flash: You're not. Only students, school staff and faculty and people directly affiliated with the team should be using the royal "we."

We, as a community, should be equally supportive of every form of sports or entertainment we have at our disposal. Too much devotion and allegiance to one entity can only lead to bad things, like ... I don't know, perhaps ... losing all forms of professional baseball?

So go ahead and keep on cheering for the UA men's basketball team. But give some love to other athletes and performers who are just as deserving of appreciation.

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