Arizona football tradition only just beginning

Last Saturday, for the first time in almost two years, I bought a ticket for an Arizona football game.

Whether that was a wise decision still remains to be seen (looking back, maybe it wasn't but then again, hindsight's always 20/20). But that's not the point.

See, the last game I actually bought a ticket for and sat in the student section was for the Oct. 23, 1993, game against Washington State. Since then, I have either attended a Family Weekend game (in which my dad bought the tickets and I sat in the family section) or I have been in the press box (which is equivalent to watching a game in a library, only less exciting).

Since I had not bought a ticket in so long, I had no reason to expect it would be much of a problem. I figured I could just drive over to the stadium around 4:30 (or whenever I woke up), walk up to the trailers, show them my student I.D. with my picture from three years ago, get my ticket and leave. No problem.

I got in my car to head to the stadium at about 5 (I woke up much earlier), and the first noticeable change from two years ago was the amount of flourescent orange flags on Campbell Avenue. But that was nothing compared to Sixth Street.

As I made a right onto Sixth (which I'm still not sure was actually legal), my first thought was, What is this, the Super Bowl? Streets were blocked off, the Circle K on Cherry was impenetrable and there were so many orange flags I wasn't sure if I was even allowed to be driving there. Parking? Yeah, right.

So, after dropping my car off at my brother's house on Ninth Street, I attempted to purchase a student ticket. There weren't any left. I ended up paying $12 for an endzone seat.

As I walked back to my brother's, I wondered why I didn't remember it ever being like this. And then I realized, it never was like this.

Two years ago, the Desert Swarm defense was still gaining steam and a shutout of Miami was still a dream. You could practically get a student ticket at halftime and people usually did, right after making a quick run over to Circle K (which you can't do anymore now either). And upon arriving in the student section, if you weren't happy with your seats, you could almost always move up to a better one.

Last Saturday, I was lucky to even be able to breathe. Granted, fan support is always a positive thing and technically, I wasn't supposed to be in the student section (I really just wandered around), but that was perhaps the most significant change from two years ago.

Arizona will never approach the 100,000 fans Michigan packs into its stadium. But then again, that's Michigan. The Arizona football tradition has really come alive only in the last few years, and if that tradition is marked by little orange flags and barricaded Circle Ks, then so be it.

When I first came to Tucson four years ago, the word "tradition" was associated with basketball team and the only success the football team laid claim to was the streak of nine consecutive games against Arizona State without a loss. That ended when I got here.

My time here has been marked by Desert Swarm. Even that, however, has begun to fade a bit. But at least the team and consequently, the school has an identity because of it. It's not quite up there with "Go Blue," but it's a start.

Maybe one day there will be Super Bowl banners, too.

Monty Phan is sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. His column appears Tuesdays.

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