Cat Litter

These Are The Days Of Lowered Expectations.
By Tom Danehy

WHEN THE BALL is tossed up tonight to start the Arizona Wildcats' NCAA Tournament game with South Alabama, fans all over southern Arizona will be kicked back, remote control in hand, just sorta half-watching the game. Hey, they've got a special Los Angeles-based episode of Law and Order over on NBC.

Danehy Whereas in the past, Cat fans would be glued to the tube, either hoping for a first-game blowout or fearing a first-game flameout, this time--the 13th straight year for Arizona in the NCAAs--people are all emotioned out from watching the Cats blow six late-game leads this Pac-10 season, and so tonight they'll just watch, knowing whatever happens, happens.

See, we've entered the Era of Lowered Expectations. These are the Slacker Cats, slouching toward the playoffs. Heck, they lost two games last weekend and they moved up in the USA Today poll. The whole country, it seems, has adopted the Cat fan attitude and is willing to pat them on the head and say, "Nice try."

They're like that character Cyril in Breaking Away, the one whose father loved to be understanding whenever Cyril failed at something. "Oh, that's all right, Cyril," Dad would say. So Cyril decided to take--and fail--a college entrance exam because his father's birthday was coming up.

Likewise, this team, needing momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament, went to the Bay Area and blew not one, but two, games by playing well for 38 minutes, and then turning boneheaded and ham-fisted for the last 100 seconds or so. It's a pattern they've perfected this year, losing twice to UCLA that way, and once each to Oregon and Washington. In fact, their only "big" loss of the season was at USC, where the Cats had a comfortable lead at halftime and apparently got on the bus for the hotel and forgot they had another 20 minutes to play.

This team is the equivalent of the middle-aged man who's been fighting a losing battle of the bulge. Finally, he decides to unbuckle his belt, loosen his pants, sit back and relax. Past Cat teams would have been mortified at the thought of losing four conference games. These guys lost five, looked around and saw the fans were still with them, and said, "Hey, what if we lost six? Or seven?"

Well, that question has been answered. The fans won't give up on you, but they won't expect anything of you, either. That can be good and bad. If they don't expect anything from you, you can't let them down--and you might even surprise them. But it should be noted the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. And if long-time Cat fans are becoming indifferent to their team's fate, that's not a good thing for the program.

Still, there remains a national interest in the Arizona Wildcats. Someone was going to make a movie about this season and call it The Year of Losing Dangerously. Mel Gibson would star as Lute Olson and Sigourney Weaver would play A. J. Bramlett. They were going to have Linda Hunt play him, but she refused, noting, "I can out-rebound that dude any day of the week."

Staying with that entertainment theme, it's as though this Cat season were foretold in popular music. Biggest song this season: "Unbreak My Heart."

Can't be done; been broken too many times. Great comeback at Oregon falls short, three-point lead over UCLA evaporates, bad shots at the end of both games this past weekend spell doom. Toni Braxton her own bad self is agonizing over the Cats. She says if they win the NCAAs, she promises to wear something revealing at the next awards show. Or if they lose in the first round. Or if they don't show up in Memphis at all.

Is Toni Braxton the ultimate example of "I did all these sit-ups and now everybody is going to know I did all these sit-ups," or what?

Alanis Morissette says, "Isn't It Ironic" the Cats can finish fifth in the conference and get a fourth seed in their tournament bracket?

Yes, it is, I suppose, Alanis. But you're from Canada, and therefore can't know anything about basketball. The closest Canadians come to basketball is throwing fish at walruses. So go back to Canada, shave your armpits, and apologize to Aretha Franklin for selling more albums than she did.

Bryan Adams and Barbra Streisand sang about Bennett Davison's defense in the last seconds of the Stanford game in "I Finally Found Someone."

Yeah Bennett, you found someone. Unfortunately, it was Brevin Knight, who'd blown by Jason Terry and, by the time you stepped up, had already delivered the ball to the guy you were TW

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