I've read all the comments and I've heard from my friends who scoff at what I'm about to write, but in my opinion the Washington win was a landmark victory for Arizona. Laugh all you will, but perhaps this is the game that finally turns the program around. The win wasn't pretty, that's for sure. But you know what the greatest thing about winning ugly is? It's winning. I'm growing tired of the Monday Morning Quarterbacking that's going on. It's natural and I can certainly dig it, but for a team that only had 14 wins in the Stoops Era heading into the game, I think what everyone, including the team, should be focusing on right now is just learning how to win games. And that's exactly what Arizona did last week. They learned how to overcome adversity and make the plays necessary down the stretch to win a game. For the most part, most of Arizona's big wins during the past four seasons have been in blowouts where the Wildcats were firing on all cylinders. UCLA in 2005 is one example. The runaway victory against Oregon last year and the thumping of Wazzu this season are two others. Last Saturday was different, though. Even more different than 2005's narrow 29-27 win at Oregon State or 2006's incredible upset over Cal. What I saw against the Huskies was an Arizona team that finally said, "We're not losing this game. Not today." And they could have. In fact, they should have. Down 41-26 in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats, with a record of 2-6 and 1-4 in conference, had every reason to quit. They had every reason to lose, make excuses, and blame everyone but themselves for yet another loss. Instead, Willie Tuitama went Manning-Brady on the Huskies in the last 12 minutes where he at one point completed 10 straight passes. The Wildcats would outscore the Huskies 22-6 in the fourth quarter, rattling off 22 unanswered points to win the game on a truly fantastic pass and catch from Tuitama to "Money" Mike Thomas. That play however was not the defining moment of the game. No, no. The defining moment came early in the first quarter when Thomas dropped an easy pass that negated what would've been a 35-yard completion. Instead of allowing that missed opportunity to drag the team down, Sonny Dykes called Thomas' number again on the very next play and this time Thomas did catch the ball for a 66-yard TD. Right then I knew Arizona was doing something different. Right then I knew Arizona was breaking their tendencies. The Wildcats were taking chances against the Huskies and forcing them to defend the entire field and it was great. Sure, it's easy to say that it's just Washington. Big deal. Well, that's true. But the real truth is the Wildcats were finally playing to win, and that's an even bigger deal.
I particularly enjoyed last weekend's victory because it was as if Stoops & Co. read every single word of our WI Football Editor's Baker's Dozen and then implemented all 13 of his key points into the game plan. The Wildcats threw the ball down the field at least 15 times, they made it a point to get the ball to Gronkowski, they got Mitchell involved in the offense, they found ways to get Grigsby the ball in space, and they even ran corner blitzes from the short side of the field. It was weird, actually. Way too weird for it to be a coincidence.
Have you ever seen the movie Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrell? It's a so-so movie but for some reason I found myself staying up to watch it in it's entirety the other night well past two in the morning. Why? One actress. Maggie Gyllenhall.
I had a ridiculously stressful and pressure-packed work week that actually began last Friday evening when the President of my company sent out a distress call to me a little after four o'clock. I spent the entire weekend, minus the time spent watching the UA/UW game, saving my company from the dark side – a project that lasted until Tuesday night. I was exhausted, on edge, and completely brain dead. And then it happened. My multi-talented Shih Tzu puppy Bella, you know the one who has the tackling skills of Spencer Larsen and the afterburners of Derick Barkum, found another way to amaze me. As I'm lying on the couch watching TV but literally comprehending nothing, Bella sneaks up from behind and begins to lick the top of bald head, incessantly. And just like that, poof, the Shih Tzu Massage was born. Seriously, you wanna' get away? You can try Calgon or you can try the Shih Tzu massage. I'll take the latter any day of the week and if anyone else is interested, I'm told by my wife that Bella's charging $60 for 30 minutes and $85 for the hour.
Joe Torre is the perfect hire for the Dodgers for the exact same reason he's no longer perfect for the Yankees. What he'll bring to the Dodgers locker room is a steady calm that the Boys in Blue are desperately in need of. The Dodgers for years have been famous for their locker room rumblings. Perhaps Jeff Kent has something to do with that, but it's deeper. This year's implosion began when Grady Little inserted Andy LaRoche's name on the lineup card at third base, in place of Nomar Garciaparra. No big deal, right? Wrong. LaRoche was called up that same morning and no one, not even Nomar, knew what Little was up to until the lineup card was posted on the wall an hour before the game. I'm sorry, but that was pretty little of Little. I'd expect that from a pompous high school coach who's a poor communicator, but not from a big league manager. My point here is Torre would never have done that. He would've sat Nomar down in private, explained the situation, and the veteran and everyone else on the team would've understood. Instead, Nomar took Little's move as a slap in the face and the team took it as pure disrespect to a veteran player. The Dodgers soon after began their slide to a fourth place finish in their Division and that was that. I'm nothing but an Expos fan, but I'm glad to see the Dodgers get a quality manager because just how college football is not the same when Notre Dame is bad, baseball's just not the same out West when the Dodgers aren't at the very least in contention.
Speaking of Torre, the new direction of the Yankees is in question. Getting rid of the skipper that took them to the playoffs 12 years straight is not the issue at hand. What is though is how they went about it. The Steinbrenner sons have about as much tact as Tony Soprano. In fact, they appear to be running the organization with a mob-like mentality. Their whole cold, it's our way or the highway attitude is going to comeback to haunt them. What's going to happen when they don't make the playoffs next year? It's entirely possible unless the Yankees can find a way to overhaul an aging team with a broken down pitching staff. They do have the money to pay for it, but do they still possess the sound decision making ability required now that George's sons are assuming more of the responsibilities. It's hard to say, but so far the young lads seem anything but impressive.
Speaking of Torre II: Tommy Lasorda was on a role this week. When asked if Italians made the best managers, he said, "I don't know, but to me they do." He then shared a story about how the media portrayed his naming of Mike Scioscia the starting catcher over Steve Yeager many, many years ago. Yeager reportedly complained to the press that Lasorda only made the move because Scioscia was Italian and the press ran with it. Lasorda adamantly denied the claim made by Yeager the next day by telling the media, "I didn't make Scioscia the starting catcher because he was Italian. I made him the starting catcher because I'm Italian." It was vintage Tommy.
It's hilarious to see Trojans fans coming apart at the seams after the school's second conference loss. L.A. radio is blowing up with amusing callers who are throwing their arms up in disbelief. Their mighty Trojans are anything but, but they're certainly not as bad as many fans seem to think they are. It just goes to show that everyone loves a winner. It'll be interesting to see how many people are in attendance at the Coliseum this weekend. I'm guessing about 72,000.
It's sad to go on the Internet everyday to find a new collegiate athlete being suspended from their team for breaking team rules or worse, breaking the law.
I agree with those who find it strange to see Washington State ranked No. 10 in the ESPN/USA preseason basketball poll. This team is no joke though. They are for real and will be in the thick of things, nationally, the entire season. What is a joke though is their non-conference schedule. Outside of hosting the always difficult Air Force Eagles and playing at No. 14 Gonzaga, the Cougars should have easy wins in their other 10 games. Unlike football where scheduling is extremely difficult and done years in advance, basketball has so many games that it's fairly easy to make one or two changes to the schedule in order to pick up a quality game if a school really wants to. I guess the thought here is to pile up a ton of wins and get one of those fancy 11-1 records that teams like Syracuse and Pittsburgh are famous for prior to heading into conference play. That way they'll preserve a high enough ranking to withstand a couple hits later in the season. The real question though is how many hits is Wazzu going to take? They open the Pac-10 with three straight road games at Washington, USC and finally UCLA. They also play at the Arizona schools during the first half of conference play. If they can somehow survive this conference stretch, they could very well put together a 25 win season. If they don't, they may find themselves asking why they didn't play tougher opponents early to prepare them for action in what should be the toughest conference in the nation.
Arizona faithful finally got a look at freshman Jerryd Bayless in the annual Red/Blue Game and the highly-touted guard's athleticism was even better than advertised. Bayless had an alley-oop dunk and a few other eye-popping rim rattlers that had fans smiling. He's as strong and explosive a guard as Arizona has seen in some time and it'll be interesting to watch him progress as the season wears on. Like all freshman, Bayless will most likely struggle with his consistency in road games. But he is a special player with the intangibles of a Mike Bibby so who knows. More importantly, he's a player who loves to play defense and that's something Arizona hasn't had at the point since Jason Gardner. For a team that couldn't defend the perimeter last season, Bayless' ability to set the tone from the top could be the motivating lift the others need to really get after it this season.
You'd hate to make another one of those Shaq for Odom et al trades but if I were the Lakers I'd make something happen, right quick. This is a story that won't die until Kobe is gone. I mean, when Craig Seger is interviewing the Mamba about his trade status during halftime of the Lakers' home opener, how good could that be for the organization. Besides, listening to Kobe talk about anything is like getting dental work done without Novacaine. Get him out of town so he can put a lid on it already. Two games into the season and I'm already back to where I was last season when I'd rather crawl into a metal trash can and have someone beat it with a baseball bat than watch this guy do an interview, take wildly bad shots, and "pretend" that he cares about anyone other than himself. The Lakers are an average basketball team with or without him so why put up with all the other baggage. I'd pull the trigger on the Chicago deal that was recently being hashed out and start building for the future because the Lakers are going nowhere with Kobe on the roster anyway. Wait a second, scratch that. I hate the Lakers. Sign him to a 10-year extension so that no other high-profile free agent in their right mind would sign on with the Lake Show.
For those keeping tabs, I just slid A-Rod into the No. 2 slot on my most hated professional athletes list. If you need to know who's first, then please re-read the previous paragraph. A-Rod has apparently let it be known that he's looking for at least a $350 million dollar deal. Puhleeze. Let me tell you this, we're all going to find out where A-Rod's priorities are real soon because if he doesn't sign with a contender, then the joke's on us. I'm all for getting paid but when's enough, enough? The Bekham soccer deal that brought the English superstar to the L.A. Galaxy blew up in their face the moment his Leer Jet touched down at LAX and it wouldn't surprise me if the next blockbuster A-Rod deal won't do the same. Maybe he should go back to Texas, put up huge numbers in meaningless games, and save the fans of a real contender the agonizing heartbreak of watching him go 4 for 15 with 1 HR and 1 RBI again in the playoffs.
On a happy note, my Celtics looked solid tonight. On a sad note it came against one of my favorite Wildcats, Agent Zero. The new PGA Tour (Pierce, Garnett and Allen) All-Star trio combined for a cool 67 points in the easy win.
The official time of death for the Wildcat Insiders Top 25 Fan Poll and Pac-10 Rankings was Thursday evening at 7:47 p.m. Thanks to the 29 voters who participated and the 8 loyal voters who sent in their ballots this week. In fairness to those who followed the polls weekly, I just couldn't throw up any rankings without a broader demographic of voters. Hopefully, we'll have more luck next season.
Have fun to those attending Homecoming festivities in the Center of the Universe. I wish I could be there. I'm in dire need of some much needed R&R after a really demanding workweek and there's nothing I'd love better than to sit back, have a cold one, and watch our Wildcats put together a solid performance against the Bruins.
Bear Down, Everyone. And Bear Down, Arizona!