I'm taking Skylar to her first live sporting event Saturday afternoon, the Cal-Arizona game at McKale. Thanks to the kindness of my former student and current suit-wearing assistant, I once again have tickets to sit in the section behind the Wildcats' home basket, where the Arizona players' families congregate.
In past years I've sat there with my father, tommix, and my colleague Eric. Each time the experience has been wonderful, despite the fact that the Bears have been blown out of the building. Indeed, the only time the Bears played the Cats close since I arrived in Tucson was my first Pac-10 season here, back in 2001, when they lost by three and had a chance to tie at the end on a Brian Wethers three. But I digress.
I was excited to see how happy the prospect of going to the game made our daughter. She is actually interested in sports all of a sudden. Since basketball is fast-moving and hard to follow when you're new to spectating, though, I wanted to prepare her for the live experience by explaining important points while watching on television. I only expected her to pay attention for a few minutes, but figured that would be enough for her to assimilate some rudimentary knowledge.
To my amazement, though, Skylar not only insisted on watching the remaining 3/4 of the Cal-ASU game and the halftime show, but also demanded to watch part of the Arizona-Stanford game that followed. By the end, she seemed to grasp many of the basics. She was noticing fouls before they were called, reading the inset scoreboard like a pro, and even complaining about the faux pessimism I slip on like a latex body glove whenever Cal is playing.
"No, dad, I don't think the Bears are going to lose. They keep getting more ahead. Now they are winning by twelve points and before it was only eight." Indeed. Luckily, as they approached their thirty-point margin of victory during garbage time, even I could temporarily suspend my fear of jinxing them and join in rousing chants with her.
The best part of the night, though, was hearing her say, during the Arizona-Stanford game, "I don't understand why Stanford has a tree. That's really dumb. It's even decorated like a Christmas tree. What does that have to do with basketball? And the Sun Devil doesn't seem at all classic either. I like Bears and Wildcats. They're not all weird." Truer words were never spoken.
Incidentally, I should add that the Jekyll-and-Hyde quality of this year's Cal men's team was never more obvious than in the glaring contrast between the brutal performance at Maples last week and the impressive showing tonight. Even without the injured Rod Benson, the Bears were as fluid in their offense as I've ever seen them.Omar Wilkes looked exponentially better than he did earlier in the season. Ayinde Ubaka was back to his new-and-improved ways. Big men Leon Powe and DeVon Hardin were stellar. Richard Midgely demonstrated a partial return to form. The new Serbo-Croatian guy showed potential. And Pittsburg, CA freshman Theo Robertson was a revelation. So I'm flush with hope again, even though I'm sure that my dreams will be dashed on Saturday. I know it. And yet I refuse to not believe in the possibility of victory. The Wildcats won tonight, at least, making it less likely that they will be out for revenge blood. Like the boy in Polar Express, I continue to hear the bells ring even though I know better. "Go Bears!"