I wrote this for the old AFO board probably over a decade ago. At least. I have been coming to AFO since 1998, and have posted this a handful of times during rivalry week. But I don't think I have posted it either of the last two years. Maybe I did, but if I didn't, then I am looking to do something different to shake up the Football Gods. My story is below...how a fan of both schools, and owner of a 1987 Rose Bowl shirt, became so disgusted by the Mustard and Rust. These are my confessions...of a former Sun Devil Fan:
Life is full of choices…you choose your job, your spouse, your clothes, whether to eat that last piece of cake. Lots of tough decisions, all of which impact your life to one degree or another. Your life is given definition, fairly or not, by your decisions in these matters. One of the most important choices a young person growing up in the State of Arizona faces is the decision of which college to attend, should you not be fortunate enough to be able to afford out-of-state options. Now, you can always opt out of the whole battle, and go to Northern Arizona. We all like the Lumberjacks, but unless elementary school teaching or a career in forestry are on your list of possible careers, you are probably making a decision based on availability to skiing and illegal substances. So, that narrows the field of choice, minus valid Apollo College or ITT Tech studies, to the University of Arizona, or Arizona State University. I faced that choice, as did many of you. Of course, I made the right decision in attending the University of Arizona. But it wasn’t always that cut-and-dried. See…I am a former Sun Devil fan. What follows is a study of sorts…a detailed timeline of the events that have taken me from a proud owner of an 1987 Rose Bowl Champion shirt to a Red and Blue bleeding Wildcat with nothing but disdain for the Tempe School of Lunacy. These are the confessions of a former Sun Devil fan.
I grew up in Arizona, and my older brother was a pretty fervent Devil fan. Yet my Grandma lived just down the road from the U of A campus in Tucson. I spent more than one fall night either in attendance, or listening to the PA announcer from the big, gray stadium down the road bark out numbers and downs. In 1980, this 8 year old was up for grabs; I could have gone either way, Cat or Devil. But when it came to academics, and proximity to family, the route to Arizona was obviously the one for me. And when I pulled into Tucson in the Fall of 1990, I was definitely a Wildcat first, but I had no real distain for the Devils. They were just a #2 to root for. I was an Arizonan, and that meant pulling for Arizona teams, one and all. Solidarity and stuff. It would take just one year for all that to be just so much noise.
Dateline November 1991. The place: Sun Devil Stadium. The end of the streak. Nine straight times, the Cats and Devils had met, and save one tie, the Cats had walked off the field victorious every time. But on this November night, the Cats were obviously overmatched, and the streak was to end. A number of starters were out with injury, and the Devils were rolling along to a 2nd half lead of 37-0. The game seemed done, but the drama was about to ratchet up a notch in mere moments. 1st, an elderly couple just down the section from me, Wildcat fans warmed by crocheted ‘Cat caps and blanket, were assaulted with a full cup of soda, thrown from a Devil in human clothing just a few rows above me. The congratulations (grunting ‘high-fives” mostly) for the offending Devil had barely died down when the incident known simply as “The Fake Punt” transpired. 37-0, and the Devils wanted more. Lined up in punt formation from the shadow of their own end-zone, the Larry Marmie-led Devils did not kick, as I discovered when I, along with 73,000 spectators, noticed something clutching a football, clad in mustard and rust, streaking for the Arizona endzone. My head was spinning….Grams and Pops are assaulted, people cheering the offender, fake punts up 37-0...how could this be happening? What the hell was wrong with these people? Alas, a yellow hankie lay on the Sun Devil turf, and the play was called back for some long-since-forgotten infraction. The football Gods broke us off a little piece, as the ‘Cats blocked the ensuing punt and returned it for a touchdown. Little solace, though, as my initiation to the evil of Tempe was just beginning.
No real incidents to report in 1992. Just that it is freaking ridiculous to get beat when the opposing team has 2/3rds of their yards come in one play. Just ridiculous.
Back to Sun Devil Stadium in 1993, we went. This was all Cats, and with a dash of class at the end. On the same field as the Devils ran a fake punt up 37 two years earlier, Dick Tomey has Dan White take a knee inside the Devils 5 yard line to end a 34-20 victory. We took their dignity, and their pet quarterback’s name…Danny White was a U of A hero that day. The win took the sting out of an incident on my walk into the stadium involving a 6 year old with an expanded vocabulary, a middle finger, and a parking structure. We’ve all seen the email-attached picture of that little soccer fan with the face painted and the middle finger extended, photoshopped to wear the gear of every team in the country. I experienced the original just south of University, from the 4th level of a parking structure. His dad just laughed. And I worried about the Devil nation.
The final straw on the journey to righteousness takes us to 1996. Yep…1996. All you have to do is mention the year to make a ‘Cat fan’s blood run cold. The stadium looked as mustard as red, as rust as blue. The last real team from Tempe, the #4 ASu Sun Devils, led by Jake “the Grope” Plummer, and some other thugs, came into the stadium and beat my ‘Cats silly. Where do you start? The flea-flicker, up 35? The cheap shot that left Daniel Greer with a broken leg? The fights in the stands? Over OUR goalpost? Where you end is with the last vestiges of Sun Devil-osity permanently removed from my being. The system was flushed, and the veins were to always be pumping Red and Blue from that point. I think I may have even burned an old Florida State Fiesta Bowl shirt I had just because of the colors. The exorcism was complete. I was a clean soul.
So, someday, someone, somewhere may uncover my ID photo from junior year in high school, showing me wearing a Sun Devil Rose Bowl shirt, or may find an old, thrown out box with my “Terrifying Towel” tucked in the bottom. Yes, that was me. But I am different now. I was Born Again in 1991. The Devil tempts me not. How could he? I am a Wildcat fan.