A Sun Devil experiences an Arizona Wildcat homecoming, leaving Tucson with a begrudging respect for the festivities and the city.
Homecoming has long been a tradition of postsecondary education in the United States, and the University of Arizona is no exception to this rule. UA celebrated its homecoming this weekend, culminating in the football matchup between the University of Washington and the 18th-ranked Wildcats.
Being a Sun Devil, I was leery to show my face around Tucson this weekend, but the allure was too much and I found myself barreling down I-10 East on Friday night.
The first thing you'll notice about Tucson during homecoming? The streets are jam-packed and traffic is touch-and-go. One minute you're cruising along at 45 miles per hour, the next you're slamming on your brakes due to the left-hand turn lane overflowing into the main part of the street. Tucson was not designed to be as populated as it is today.
Right around noon on Saturday, I found myself standing at Frog & Firkin on University, and it's a sea of red as far as I could care to imagine. Attempting to be incognito, I wore a blue Phillies shirt to pay homage to my team that was in battle that evening in the NLCS.
Much to my surprise, I was welcomed with a chorus of boos; the Giants have a larger fan base in Tucson than I had imagined. If I wanted to get heckled, I may as well have worn my maroon and gold.
Frog & Firkin was absolutely packed, and it was difficult to even move in the outdoor area, let alone get a seat. I have never seen a bar filled with people so consistently dressed - nearly everyone had a red Arizona shirt on, and despite my attempts I was still on the outside. After a lengthy wait, my group secured a long picnic table and we were able to relax.
Nothing extraordinary occurred at this bar, but it is fascinating to see how people react to fans of the opposition. Washington fans adorned in purple were booed mercilessly whenever a group walked by, and "U of A" chants echoed across University at opportune times.
The age split was fairly mixed, and men in their 50s mingled with female 20-somethings in true homecoming fashion. I was impressed by the turnout of the old-school graduates.
As for the football game, the stadium was packed full of fans, another strong showing in the attendance column for the Wildcats during what has been an impressive season. The crowd was dedicated and stayed through halftime and beyond despite the rout-in-the-making.
I must say I am impressed by the whole operation. Maybe it's because Arizona is 5-1 and on its way to a good bowl game, or maybe it's the fantastic weather, but either way, the Wildcats show up for this weekend.
There was a lot of pageantry revolving around the alumni presence on campus, and it goes without saying that the town of Tucson truly opens its arms to the economic boom of homecoming. While a city like Tempe can try to replicate that, a city like Tucson just needs it more.
A few observations:
- After realizing he placed the order in the wrong place, our waiter came by our table and removed a plate of fries. This was after we had already started eating them. He turned around and delivered it to the table next to us. It goes without saying that this was hilarious.
- UA is celebrating 125 years as a university, dating back to 1885.
- Matt Scott is fast and a legitimate threat running the option package.
- The Sonoran desert gets really cold at night, and the lack of streetlights provides a stark contrast to the blinding glow of Tempe and the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.
- None of the ATMs I saw today were operational - way to go alumni for running those dry!
- A little kid (age six or younger) ran across the field at the start of the second half to grab the kickoff tee for the Wildcats. It was a cute moment and the student section cheered loudly for the little guy.