Wildcats' winning years coincide with writer's career

I feel like Sam Malone did when he turned out the lights of "Cheers" after what had been a long and prosperous run.

As I type this column, it is my way of turning out the lights on three years at the Wildcat.

It was during my freshman year when I took a job on the Wildcat's sports desk and except for a semester off, I have been working ever since.

Now, like the rest of the graduates this May, I am off to pursue bigger and better things.

I look back fondly on the last four years. The six semesters on the job have been enjoyable, sometimes stressful, but usually worth it.

Maybe it was easier because most of the athletes I talked to were joyful.

As luck would have it, I've never covered a loser Ä not even close to one. In the six seasons I've written about UA teams (two each of men's lacrosse, football and softball), no team has lost more than four games in a season. The overall record of those teams is 162-17 (.905), including this year's No. 2 UA softball team (53-4) whose season is in progress.

Trust me, it was simply good fortune.

But it's not those wins and losses but the good memories, some of which are shared by almost anyone who attended the university the last four years, that weigh heaviest on my mind.

There's the memory of Shaquille O'Neal struggling to score as Sean Rooks, Ed Stokes and Chris Mills combined to shut him down when the Wildcats beat LSU 87-67 at McKale in 1991.

There are the memories of UA football, too many of them to list. But the ones that stick out are of Steve McLaughlin kicking the game-winner against Stanford, Washington State kicker Aaron Price missing in '93, and the Wildcats beating up Miami 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl in '94.

There are the memories of the days when the UA baseball team was constantly winning at Sancet Field, beating the elite Six-Pac teams, until Jerry Kindall's entire lineup seemed to bolt for the pros two years ago.

There are the memories of Susie Parra dominating every time she took the mound at Hillenbrand Stadium. Or watching Amy Chellevold speed around the basepaths and Laura Espinoza smack the ball over the wall.

There's the isolated, unique memory of the men's lacrosse team celebrating its 10-7 upset of Whittier College in '93 as the Laxcats got soaked in the rain. A packed sideline of Whittier students could only look on in dismay as the Poets' 42-game winning streak came to a screeching halt.

There's the memory, perhaps the best, of running onto the field after Arizona's 16-3 win over then No. 1 Washington in '92.

Those are just some of my memories. There were definitely a lot of other good moments.

But there were other things related to sports that were memorable, like Dennis Hopper watching footage of UA football simultaneously while watching the bus and Sandra Bullock wearing a UA sweatshirt in the movie "Speed". Of course there is Sports Illustrated, which adorned its cover with the Wildcats as their No. 1 pick in the college football preview issue.

In closing, as the only graduating senior on the Wildcat sports desk, I will keep my list of good-byes short. I just want to thank Th‚oden Janes for being both a terrific sports editor and a close friend, my parents for their encouragement and Kappa Sigma for many friendships.

All in all, from the Final Four to the Fiesta Bowl to the softball national championships, it was a pretty good time for students to watch the University of Arizona's sports teams.

Now, I close the door on four outstanding years.

Eric Wein is a journalism senior and assistant sports editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. His column appears periodically.

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