Shut the Front Door ….

The only thing remotely predictable about Arizona-Arizona State game was picking ASU to win. And, well, it happened, in typical fashion of many of Arizona’s previous losses. The Wildcats had little left in the gas tank and even fewer quality players to compete against its opponents, thus the 72-64 loss to the Sun Devils.

As it turned out that wasn’t the news of the day. Hell, about 15 minutes after the final horn who even cared about the score and the outcome, given Sean Miller’s emotional speech when talking about his seniors and his time at Arizona?

How was this?

“It has been an amazing honor to coach in McKale Center for the last 10 years, thank you for everything,” Miller said.

It’s not like you haven’t heard it a few – more than a few times – the last 24-plus hours.

It sounded more like a concession speech than anything else, throwing the Arizona fan base into a tizzy and the media – local and national – into a “what-the-hell-just-happened moment?”

No sooner did his finish with his thanks for the last 10 years speech did the buzz – yes, Twitter – go bonkers.

What did it all mean? Well, only Sean Miller knows, given he didn’t want to talk about his future in the post-game press conference or his emotions behind the speech. Understandable, given Miller has yet to comment on anything truly personal or anything pertaining to his future or any investigation or subpoena.

But let me say this – and many know this – Miller doesn’t say anything without a purpose. Every. Word. Has. A. Purpose.

He’s shrewd like that. Is he gauging the climate of his fanbase? Hell, most love him. Is he taking the temperature of the UA administration? Is it really a goodbye?

Only Miller knows what he meant as a very important trial comes up next month involving Christian Dawkins and the FBI probe. And, don’t forget there are still games to be played in the coming days with the Pac-12 Tournament beginning on Wednesday. My guess he’ll continued to be asked what he meant by it all.

Still, for a coach to not like the media – locals and otherwise – he sure teases it a lot and has done so lately, given the “you can go back to Phoenix” comment and a week later telling a Phoenix reporter “to make sure to come to the next game.”

He stirs the emotions and the pot.

Only he knows the reason why he does this. But here we are speculating what he meant in saying thanks.

Maybe it was just a thanks. Like I’ve often said, “sometimes a hello is just a hello” and a goodbye is a goodbye.”
In time, we will all know.

Sugar Skulls turned out to be, um, pretty sweet

So, I took in my first indoor football game and, well, I wasn’t sure what to think. The crowd lines outside were long as they attempted to get into Tucson Convention Center. The tailgating area was very good. The beer was flowing. The fans were dressed appropriately. And, I had my seat in the press area.

I still wasn’t sold … until I went into the crowd and watched the game with the people. I get it. It’s loud, exciting, and, yes, fun. I didn’t have a drink – but I’m sure it would help with this column about now. Getting up close and personal – in an arena that doesn’t have a bad seat to see a game – matters. There were crashes and burns and a fight that brought out feisty in the fans.

“It was awesome, it was electric,” said Skulls quarterback Matt Behrendt, who passed for eight touchdowns.
“It seemed like they were having a good time. We fed off their energy, especially in the first half. It was a little shaky to start the second half, but I felt the crowd got back into it. It was great to see the fans of Tucson that excited about this football team.”

It helped that Tucson beat Bismarck 62-42.

At the end of the day, it was announced 5,198 fans showed up. Yes, more could have and maybe should have now as the Sugar Skulls are 2-0 in the IFL.

The Sugar Skulls won’t be back in the TCC until March 31 when it gets another crack at pleasing the crowd, although it does play the Arizona Rattlers next weekend in what surely – seemingly? – will be an awkward meeting between Sugars Skulls owner Kevin Guy and Rattlers coach, um, Kevin Guy.

For a day – Sunday – Guy wore his Sugar Skulls cap.

“I thought it was a great atmosphere and Tucson did a great job of supporting it,” said Guy. “The lines were insane coming into the arena and at the merchandise line. I was very pleased with the turnout. We’re just going to build it from here.”

Guy said a lot of hard work has gone into all this and “there were some hiccups” but “we will fix them and move forward.”

It seemed the arena was about 75 percent full, but Guy wants it sold out. Of course, he does. “We feel like Tucson can do this,” he said. “We just have to educate our fans to get here earlier and then stay for after the game. They left and we bring our players and cheerleaders out to sign autographs. We have to educate them to hang around.”

Translation: it’s more than a game, it’s a party.

He gave the day an A.

“We’re going to continue to grow it,” he said, “We’re going to get to an A-plus.”

It’s Kentucky Derby Prep Season and Baffert is loaded

Once again, Nogales native and University of Arizona grad Bob Baffert is ready to attempt another Triple Crown run. Oh, to be Bob Baffert. With Santa Anita all but shut down for a bit – officials there are trying to find out what’s the cause of 21 horse deaths there since December – Baffert has two great ones in his barn this season for the 3-year-old crown. Game Winner and Improbable.

The two will be running in the annual Rebel Stakes this coming weekend. The two will be trying to gain enough points to qualify for the Derby in early May, hoping to do what Justify did last year and American Pharoah did a couple of years back – win the Triple Crown.

Stay tuned.

Baffert has the top 4-year-old in the world with McKinzie, owned by Tucson connections.

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