Immediately following the game on Saturday, my dad looked at me and said, “you know, I would like to watch the final two minutes of that game again, because I’m not entirely confident I really understand what just happened.” What game is my dad talking about, you ask? Well, it doesn’t really matter–such was the reaction for players and fans in both the Arizona football game in the New Mexico Bowl against Nevada and the Arizona basketball game against then #5 Florida: shocking, unbelievable, indescribable and for those from Florida or Nevada, add the words demoralizing, devastating and dumbfounding. Like my dad and I, Even those that witnessed Saturday’s events from start to end cannot fully explain or comprehend what happened. It went by too quickly.
We all know the basic story by now. Down by 13 points to Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl with less than two minutes left in the game, Arizona scored a touchdown, recovered an onside kick and then scored another touchdown to go ahead by one point with 19 seconds left in a game the Wildcats had no business winning. Eight hours later, down by 6 points to Florida at McKale Center with less than one minute left in the game, Arizona caused three turnovers and scored 7 points to go ahead by one point with 7 seconds left in a game the Wildcats had no business winning. How many other college schools can say that their football and basketball teams won by a single point…scored in the final seconds in critical games…that they shouldn’t have won…on the same day? I dare you to find one other than the University of Arizona.
That is the basic headline, but the details become more complex. Most sports writers generally break down each game by analyzing numbers and searching for answers via statistics, and for most games, that method works. Sometimes, however, you will not find any answers on paper and writing about as much will not provide any insight nor do the game any true justice; sometimes, you cannot explain a game by numbers and must instead use words, or on instances like this one, at least attempt to use them. In rare moments, even words are hard to put down because the event is powerful enough to give each fan or player a one of a kind experience–a unique story of their own, one that is on their own terms and that cannot be fully understood by anyone. Such was the case last Saturday for Arizona (twice), and I have yet to talk to someone who shared the same experience I did.
For me, the experience was about karma. About watching Arizona’s defense get flagged for targeting Nevada’s quarterback near the goal line, watching their quarterback grovel on the ground as if he were in the pain equivalent to a woman in labor and then pop up, pump his fist and dance around on the sideline like a typical douche bag. By the end of the game, there would no longer be a cute smug on his face, but the look of a stunned idiot, like any teenager from the movie Dazed and Confused.
It was about irony. About missing the last two minutes of the football game so that we could catch my flight back to Tucson for the basketball game, only to find out once we got to the airport the flight was delayed long enough that we could have stayed for the entire thing (every Arizona fan on that flight was in the airport bar pounding back a large beer in agony over that one.). Even the Arizona Pom Line missed it. We would all be rewarded for this later however, nothing impeding our ability to watch the last two minutes of the never-to-forget basketball thriller. It’s not often (or ever) you get to say, “I missed seeing live one of the most epic comebacks in school history so that I wouldn’t miss seeing live another epic comeback in school history later that night.”
It was about catching a break. Before now–and especially for football–Arizona was long overdue for a lucky bounce to go their way. On Saturday, Santa brought the Wildcats two huge lucky bounces as early Christmas presents (a successful onside kick and a missed free throw from a Florida guard who shoots 87% at the free throw line).
It was about so many other things: pure will and determination, hope, relief, validation and confirmation of a new coach with a new program on the rise, re-establishment of a national power house, the usage and non-usage of timeouts, broken curses and broken records, the belief that maybe there is such a thing as a Sports God, complete and utter collapses, the redemption of two different seniors in two different sports, the potential of a future Heisman trophy winner, unlikely heroes and villains, sideline brawls, overcoming adversity, the thought of a much different conversation being had today had either game gone differently, adding two more things to my “Top 10 Arizona Sports’ Moments of the Year,” and on, and on, and on, and on.
This a small account of my observations, and I couldn’t recount the entirety of my own experience even if I tried–like my dad said at the end of it all, I’m not so sure I entirely understand what just happened. But that’s not what is important, because I know (at least to some extent) my own version of the story. The important question is: what is yours?
(No, but seriously, what is your version of what unfolded Saturday? I’d love for you to leave a comment below sharing with me your experience of a very special moment in Wildcat history).