A FEW WEEKS back, The Arizona Daily Star ran some articles on fan attendance--or lack thereof--at local high school sporting events. The series prompted a few tepid letters of protest, but for the most part it was met with about the same response as the announcement of a Palo Verde-Marana basketball game. Which is to say it's the athletic equivalent of the school Christmas pageant; only parents and visiting relatives will show up--and even then, they'll want to leave as soon as their kid is done performing.
I wish high school sports were more popular here, and I'm both surprised and disappointed they're not. I grew up in L.A. with huge crowds at everything from football games to track meets. From there I went to Cochise College in Douglas and got caught up in the small town, close-all-the-stores-and-we'll-all-go-to-the-game spirit of things.
But Tucson is a 'tweener and for some reason people think they have better things to do. What's really depressing is that all of the adulation and attention lavished on the UA Wildcat teams has absolutely no spillover whatsoever. One would think it would instill an appetite for more live sports action, but such simply isn't the case.
Attendance at a lot of schools for a lot of sports really stinks. There are lots of reasons for this. Parents are busy, high school kids don't support school teams like they did a generation ago, the dailies do a bad job of covering prep sports (mostly because they devote too much space to the UA and bullshit non-stories like strikes), and there are other entertainment opportunities available, including videos and cable TV.
I'm not saying I'd like it to be like it is in Texas, where most of the adult lives in an entire town are built around Friday night's high school football game. But neither am I happy with the way it is here and now.
I think lots of people would benefit from an increased interest in high school sports. So I want you to get out there and do something about it. Just pretend I'm big-ass, pork rind-eatin' Rush Limbaugh and you're all my mindless minions who are willing to state publicly that you agree with everything that I say (how proud they must be to call themselves "dittoheads!").
Go out and see a high school game. It's good for the economy. It'll keep Colin Powell from starting a third party.
But first, my subjects, allow me to help you find your way. It's basketball season so you should probably start there. But not all gyms are alike. Some are great venues, others are horrible. Most could go either way.
There are several really cool gyms in town. One of my favorites is the Flowing Wells High girls' gym. It's small and it used to be the school's only gym, until a few years ago when they built a huge new facility on the west side of the campus. The old gym became the girls'.
Rather than complaining about the snub, the girls' program seized the opportunity and ran with it. They refurbished the place, got somebody to dress up as a Caballero mascot, worked hard in the off-season to build up the program and now they play to packed houses.
Meanwhile, the boys play in the cavernous new gym in front of thousands of people who show up disguised as empty seats. Which is fine, since the guys on the squad are disguised as basketball players.
Some of the other good gyms in town include:
Salpointe Catholic: Nice and big, but not so big it doesn't fill up. Good floor, good acoustics, vocal crowd.
Palo Verde Christian: Newest gym in town. Proves there are lots of rich white folks willing to pay a lot of money to keep their kids away from those dreadful public schools.
Green Fields Country Day School: Nice cozy gym. Pulitzer Prize winner Larry McMurtry hangs out there. He's a fan of Sara Ossana, the best girl player in the city.
Canyon Del Oro: Just feels like a high school gym. Place really rocks when full, especially if people are in the balcony.
In the Too Bad category are:
Sunnyside: Great gym to play in, nice floor, good rims. Unfortunately, the acoustics sound like they were done by somebody who spent five years as a roadie for AC/DC. The din is deafening. You could get a headache watching a chess tournament in that place.
Amphi: State of the art building, really impressive, plus they have a top-notch program, but somehow the place comes off a little too sterile.
And be sure to avoid:
Catalina High: What a dump! They'd have to paint that thing before they could condemn it.
Tucson High: Haunted by the spectre of the 1969 state championship team, probably the best local prep squad ever, and the legacy of underachieving Badger squads since then.
You have your orders. Now go.
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