Before the first shot was launched in the NCAA basketball tournament, a big city newspaper sports reporter was penning a column in which he called for the entire state to get behind the University of Arizona Wildcats. His ponderings were specifically directed toward Arizona State University fans and alumni.
His musings might have been well intentioned, but I couldn't help but wonder if the shoe were on the other foot, would Arizona faithful be cheering for ASU?
Could the Devils count on fan support from Tucson if they were in the Big Dance rather than the Cats?
I sincerely doubt it.
Since I graduated from ASU in 1967, I've been to many Sun Devil football, baseball and basketball games in which the opposition's greatest support came from Arizona fans.
At the El Paso, Texas Sun Bowl in 1998, a vociferous group of Arizona alumni loudly and proudly threw their support behind Iowa.
Over the years, I've heard from Tucson people, all too often, that their favorite teams were "Arizona and whoever is playing ASU that day." Many of those connected with Arizona take great delight in seeing Arizona State stumble.
When ASU was denied a Rose Bowl a decade ago, it was the biggest news to hit the Old Pueblo since some guy's last gasp words were "Bear Down."
In the Rim country, Arizona has a fan base of teenagers who've never set foot in Tucson, taken a class at the U of A or who have no connection with the school. They've simply jumped on the Wildcat bandwagon because of the success of the basketball team.
Along with the youngsters' questionable allegiance to a school they have no ties with goes a healthy dose of ASU bashing.
I doubt the Phoenix sportswriter who called for Devils' disciples to get behind the Wildcats was around in the late 1950s when well-heeled and politically powerful Arizona alumni did everything in their power to prevent then Arizona State College from becoming a university.
Unable to get a bill through the legislature that would designate ASC a university, Sun Devil supporters had to take the measure to a referendum vote of the people. Much to the chagrin of Southern Arizona, it was overwhelming approved.
If those in Tucson had their way, ASU would still be a college.
I've met people north of Nogales who still won't utter "ASU." Rather, they call the school "Tempe."
Despite the pleadings of the Phoenix sportswriter, this ASU alumnus can't be counted among those who'll cheer for the Wildcats in the final four.
I won't be against them, but neither will I be for them.
I'd rather save my cheers for the days when Rob Evans turns the ASU basketball program around.
A fellow ASU alumnus owns a T-shirt that says, "I'd rather be a Sun Devil and lost than to ever have been a Wildcat at all."
I wholeheartedly agree.