September 14 - September 20, 1995

B y  T o m  D a n e h y


SOMEONE'S GOT TO say it, so it might as well be me: What were the folks at The Arizona Daily Star thinking when they ran that grotesque letter in Sunday's sports page? This thing was so high on the cringe-meter it easily surpassed the former record holder, a film of Michael Jackson winning an award from a youth group, then asking the 12-year-old presenter if he'd like to go out for an ice cream France. (Actually, I don't know if all of that's true; it might have been sorbet.)

If you missed the letter, consider yourself lucky. Until now, that is, because I'm going to let you know what it said.

Some terribly misguided sentimental football fan (that's a description right up there with "disgruntled postal worker") suggested the spirit of dead UA football player Damon Terrell floated over Arizona Stadium and acted as a twelfth man in bringing the Cats back from a 19-7 deficit with six minutes left in the improbable 20-19 UA victory over Georgia Tech.

And I quote: "There was a twelfth man on the field that evening. The team was joined by an angel. The angel wore No. 80 and visited the stadium and his teammates one last time before joining his little boy in heaven.

"Thank you, Damon."

Is it just me or does that creep you out in a big way? Were there any editors working that week or were they all in St. Louis for the monthly meeting where some suit explains his latest plan to suck every last nickel out of Tucson to prop up Pulitzer?

Seeing as I'm Irish-Italian and my wife is Mexican-Spanish, I guess I'm something of an industrial-strength Catholic. I believe in miracles; I really do. But I can't believe God would take a life so a team could win a football game. Or that the spirit of a newly departed would linger to help guide his team to a victory. At least not in a non-conference game, against an unranked opponent.

AS FOR the tragic death of Damon Terrell, there's another matter which must be broached. Somehow the dailies have done the near-impossible, managing to dance around what amounts to a 900-pound gorilla in the living room. That oversized primate is the exact cause of Terrell's death and the family's steadfast refusal to release any information about it.

Terrell's death at such an early age is indeed a tragedy. His spirit will live on in the hearts of his family, his teammates and all those he touched in his brief time on earth.

However, for the average fan who didn't know him but merely knew of him, the initial shock that such a finely tuned athlete could first be stricken and then be taken is giving way to a grim fascination with the missing details.

Some of this can be discounted to the sick times in which we live and the tabloid-driven modern urge to think the worst of people. But some is simply human nature, neither good nor bad, but merely inescapable.

The members of Terrell's family are obviously grief-stricken and they must deal with this as best they can. But they've got to know that their (what amounts to a) gag order is fueling wild speculation throughout the community as to the cause of death. The rumors are numerous. Some are vile and none will be repeated here.

I didn't know Damon Terrell and I don't know his family, so it would be beyond presumptuous to offer them advice. I just think that, God forbid, if I were in a similar situation, I would give serious consideration to releasing the information. Certainly the memory of a loved one is not diminished by the cause of his passing.

I honestly believe somebody at the dailies knows more about this than you or I. They're probably sitting on it out of respect for the family's expressed wishes. I'd probably do the same. The truth will leak out eventually; it always does. And when it does, it won't be anywhere near as bad as the speculation, if it's bad at all.

Meanwhile, the rumor mills are operating at full speed. People take part in the process and then feel lousy for having done so. And so it goes.

I REALLY don't like the Pacific Coast League playoffs. And not just because the Toros lost.

I spent several hours at the Toros game the other night, almost all of it watching the Colorado Sky Sox score seven of the nastiest runs you've ever seen in The Third Inning That Wouldn't Die. All year long, I've listened to my Weekly buddy Jim Nintzel talk about how great the Toros were. Then I show up and it's passed ball here, dropped popup there. Hey, I already coach Little League. I don't need to drive across town to see this.

The worst part is that after spending six months getting to the playoffs, the Toros (and other teams) find themselves gutted so that the big club can have some extra guys sitting on the bench in September.

I know it's the system and it's always been that way, but I still think it reeks. Why can't the big clubs hold off? As it went, the Toros who joined the Astros would have done so one week late. And those in the finals will do so two weeks late. Not that big a deal. And Lord knows the farm-club fans deserve to do the Playoff Dance with those that brung 'em.


Q: What did the Deadhead say when he ran out of drugs?

A: "Wow, this music really sucks."

Which is what I was trying to say all along.

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September 14 - September 20, 1995

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