I've been just a little too busy to get this done earlier, but since I wrote about earlier trips, I figured, why not write about this one...anyway...
I also, on the advice of Justin D. Paola, purchased tickets from the Arizona Athletic Ticket Office (surprise! it wasn't sold out yet!). The operator was one the most courteous people I've ever dealt with. She even said "Hope you enjoy the game!", even though I told her I was from Cal.
I didn't buy tickets for the ASU game, because I figured that given the sorry state that ASU hoops was in, there'd be plenty of tickets available. Marty Sours made me extra glad when he told me that he had a 2 for 1 pass to the game.
When I arrived at Sky Harbor Airport I was disappointed to find that all of the car rental lots are now off site (Phoenix used to have THE most convenient rental car lot I've ever been to). Well, I picked up my car from Hertz (a green Mazda 626...they didn't have any blue ones) and had no trouble driving from the Hertz off-airport lot to Scottsdale Stadium.
Then, as a surprise, Hank Greenwald's voice came over the PA. Hank's voice suddenly made me think "it's time for GIANTS baseball!" Even though he normally does radio, he read off the starting lineups at almost a perfect pace--giving me just enough time to fill in the position, player number, and player name without having to rush. The only thing he could have to make it better would have been to read the name and position one more time and to have inluded the batting position when announcing substitutions.
After a so-so rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, I witnessed a strange but somewhat enjoyable game. The highligts included the return of Ryne Sandberg for the Cubs, two spectacular catches by Barry Bonds, and a MONSTER home run by Bonds that went OVER the grass slope beyond the outfield wall. Still, after the San Francisco batters gave the Giants a 6-1 lead, two releivers gave up 5 straight runs in the 8th for the Cubs to tie the game. Then, one more Giant releiver gave up 4 consecutive runs in the 10th. Even the Steve Decker launched one out in the bottom of the 10th, the Giants failed to answer. I took it as a good sign that a "Bear" team was able to win (even though I was rooting for the Giants).
Changing Hands is very similar to Black Oak Books on Shattuck and Vine. It has an ecletic selection of both new and used books, plus regularly scheduled poetry and story readings. They also have a buyer incentive program in which you earn credit for every $10 you spend. Once you earn ten credits, you get $10 off your next purchse. I had finally earned my first 10 credits, and so I purposely brought little to read so I would buy something this time. I found three books in the used section, two science fiction books (Ann McCaffrey's _Crystal_Line_ and Jack Williamson's _Beachhead_) and NPR Morning Edition host Bob Edwards' _Fridays_with_Red_, which recalls the Friday morning conversations he had with the now late Brooklyn Dodger announcer Red Barber. Total cost...26 cents!
Following the visit to the bookstore, and a light dinner, I headed for The Coffee Plantation. The Coffee Plantation in Tempe has decent coffee, cheap refils (last year they went from 25 to 50 cents) and a great atmosphere to get work done in. It even has tables near wall outlets to plug my powerook in, allowing me to work for hours!
Mill Avenue, which both establishments are located on is the Tempe equivilant of Telegraph Ave. Though you won't see any street vendors it has a few little shops, and some nice old buildings. Unfortunately, as I walked from Changing Hands to the Coffee Plantation, I noted some disturbing changes since my last visit in July. Two corners of Mill Avenue now sport large chain operations--a two story "Urban Outfitters" and a two story building housing a McDonalds and Hooters. At least I know Telegraph will never have a Hooters.
Our seats weren't bad, and given how bad ASU was, I wasn't surpised that the place was pretty empty when we sat down. Actually, the place was DEAD. The fans didn't make any noise, the ASU pep band played only three songs (ASU's fight song, something else, and that damned HEY song). One thing I really disliked was the ASU dance team (the "Devil Angels") danced only to recorded music instead of to their band. Anyway, we all know what happened at the game. As I was walking back to my car, I reallized that this was the third time I've seen a game in Tempe (two football games and then this) and that "I've never left this place felling happy?"
Then, as I get back to the hotel, I turn on the TV, and there's the Stanfurd-Arizona game...While the game was on, I called up my best friend Andy, who had made many football road trips with me. He was also watching the Stanfurd game, and we both had the same reaction... RATS! Still, it did show us that Arizona was beatable.
The last time I made the drive from Phoenix to Tucson was in the Fall, before the speed limit was raised. This time I was met with a nice surprise...the maximum speed limit in Arizona is 75 miles per hour. Seeing the 75 mph speed limit sign made very happy, because I was running bahind schedule. I managed to pull into the parking lot of the Casa Grande Holiday Inn just as Terence and the rest were loading up Al. What timing!
With all of the students gone, Tucson was soooo dead that the most action was at the local Carls Jr. (which had a TV showing ESPN). After meandering around for a few hours we wandered to Gerronimo's. Even though we were early, Justin and his wife were already waiting. Gerronimos serves a combination of Italian and American food plus a wide variety of mixxed drinks. Since we had more than enough time, we perused both the drink and dinner menus. I decided to try a "Purple Haze" (one of their house drinks)--a concoction of Rum, Vodka, Tequilla, Gin, Triple Sec, and something to make it purple and sweet (I can't remember). The drink was good, and strong. Dinner was also delicious.
Meanwhile, we walked in and were handed red pom poms...Even though I wasn't going to wave it, I took one anyway, so I could have something to burn at next fall's Big Game bonfire rally.
To me, McKale has looked pretty impresive on TV; It lived up to my expectations. The place was packed full of Arizona fans, and even when they don't make that much noise, they still make more noise than our alumni...When they actually made noise, they were very imposing.
McKale is also a decent place to watch a game. The only seats you should avoid are in the upper corners, which of course were the seats that we had. These seats would be ok if they didn't have replay screens hanging down in front of them. We had no trouble seeing the court, but we couldn't see any of the replay screens or the big scoreboards behind the baskets.
One other annoying thing about McKale is its announcer. On TV, and on the Pac 10 list, I had heard that the McKale announcer was the most obnoxious in the Pac 10, if not the country. Sadly, this was true. Granted I expect the announcer to get excited when something good happens for the Wildcats, but this guy got excited on anything. The best way to describe him is to compare him to NFL Referee Red "FIRST DOWWWWN!" Cashen. Imagine Red shouting out the following phases with the same effort he puts into "FIRST DOWWWWN!":
"TIME OUT ON THE FLOOOOOOOR!" "Travellling! BALL GOES OVER TO THE WIIIIILLLDDDCATS"
Anyway, at first it wasn't too bad, since the speakers above our heads weren't working...but unfortunately for us, they fixxed them.
One last thing on the fans. Many Arizona fans I have met in past trips have been pretty friendly...the ones around us were just obnoxious. Oh well.
After the game we trudged back to our cars. Terence and the rest started their drive back to LA. i just drove to my hotel, since my flight was the next day. The flight itself was uneventful, though since it stopped in Ontario, I "waved" to the houses of Dave Freidman and Dori, Larry, and Danial Hoffman ;)
Well, it was a fun trip, despite the results of the games.
Now I guess it's time to consider football season; it's another one where the Bears stay west. The away games are:
9/7 San Jose State 10/5 U$c 10/19 Washington State (fly to Spokane) 11/9 ASU (fly/drive to Phoenix) 11/16 Oregon (drive to Eugene or fly to Portland and drive)
"School for the Deaf and the Blind, hmm, must be for Pac 10 refs" -- somebody in Al