By Brett Fera
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday October 29, 2002
I calmly walked up to McKale Center with a couple of my friends at 5 a.m yesterday, tired yet excited, confident yet nervous, and primed yet still unprepared to get my season tickets for the No. 1 basketball team in the nation.
As I inched closer with my Cat-Card in hand, my mouth dropped at what I saw öö the supposed no-lineup policy had gone by the wayside, creating a riotesque atmosphere that would give Fourth Avenue store owners recurring nightmares for weeks.
There was no line, as it was so nicely described, but instead, all I could see was wall-to-wall bodies, thousands upon thousands of them, mashed together in a twisted mass of humanity that could dwarf even the largest Ibiza foam party.
I witnessed grown men crying and young persons crowd-surfing toward East Enke Drive after getting their vouchers, simply because it was the only way out from the front of the crowd. There was so much bodily friction and perspiration among the restless bunch that I could have sworn that a fire had started within the crowd, when it fact it was just a heavy cloud of sticky and steamy body heat.
Finally, as expected, UAPD and Tucson Police Department arrived on the scene, albeit a few hours too late. Their only hope was to break out the riot gear, tell the ticket booth to stop handing out vouchers and force the crowd away with their megaphones. "Leave the area now. Walk west toward the football stadium and leave the premises now," they commanded.
I left at 7 a.m., sweaty, smelly and pissed off beyond belief and ÷ the worst part ÷ with my hands empty. No voucher for me.
Ultimately, I lost out, and I was not alone by any means. Profanity-laden tirades were shouted toward officers from every direction. Sure, I can still possibly get tickets through whatever measures the athletic department decides to distribute them when they release that information sometime today, but that is beside the point.
I was stepped on, and shoved, and, at some points, got to know the people next to me so well that I was standing for what felt like minutes on end without my feet actually touching the ground. It made a Slayer concert look tame.
The funny thing is that we were not in line to get tickets themselves, but for a separate ticket that will allow us to buy tickets at a later time. The logic here is beyond my deepest comprehension.
Did the powers that be not think that hoards of students would want tickets to see the nation's top team? Did they not realize that most of those students would do anything and everything to force their way to the front of the line?
And as for UAPD and TPD, who knows what they were thinking, not regulating the so-called line at different points during the night like they did last year. When they finally did show up and saw the crowd, they did their damnedest to intimidate the mass, speeding up as fast as possible toward McKale, then slowing down real quick with their sirens blaring, as if that was supposed to scare us away. They would leave and drive around the block, doing this over and over again until it was time to break out the riot gear.
It was a poor system from the beginning, and while the students did nothing to help their cause, the UA ticket office, along with the local police, failed to do its job of regulating the situation.
The only winners seem to be those lucky few who were able to get vouchers, leaving much of the crowd feeling the same way I did when we were leaving.
Last year, the system worked, but was heavily flawed. This year, it was a downright joke. The lottery system of two years ago was light-years better, and much more fair to the students, for that matter.
Change in the system is necessary not just for fairness, but for safety. The events of today left a bitter taste in my mouth, and the disgusting display of trash, vomit and filth that turned that front sidewalk into a wasteland left my gut turning.
If there can be one thing taken from this, at least I know next time to bring a towel for my face, padding for my body and a med-kit for my wounds ÷ because I will not be leaving without tickets.