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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Camping out at McKale

    Education sophomore David Wallace, top, undeclared sophomore Kara Limke, and education sophomore Dominic Witter wait outside McKale Center before the ASU basketball game Feb. 25.  About 500 Zona Zoo members lined up three hours before game time in anticipation of Saturdays 70-67 Arizona loss to No. 14 Washington.
    Education sophomore David Wallace, top, undeclared sophomore Kara Limke, and education sophomore Dominic Witter wait outside McKale Center before the ASU basketball game Feb. 25. About 500 Zona Zoo members lined up three hours before game time in anticipation of Saturday’s 70-67 Arizona loss to No. 14 Washington.

    Editor’s note: Against No. 14 Washington Saturday, students were told to wear red for a ‘red-out’ Senior Day in McKale Center. Throughout Friday evening and for 13 hours on Saturday, Wildcat sports writer Mike Ritter camped outside the arena to be with the Arizona basketball fans.

    4 p.m. Friday

    I am shocked when I arrive to see a number of students with tents set up directly outside the Zona Zoo entrance. It appears that these fans are prepared to sit and wait for an entire day just to get the best available seats to see their beloved Wildcats try to pull an upset.

    7 p.m. Friday

    I am notified by an encamped fan that students who were set up outside McKale were cited by police for trespassing and were removed from the premises.

    10 p.m. Friday

    I go back to McKale to talk to the police, but mysteriously, not a single person is outside, except for one student.

    12:30 a.m. Saturday

    Back to McKale again. Nobody is outside.

    1 a.m. Saturday

    On the third floor at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house – I witness the making of the Zona Screw. Zona Screw’s record was 8-0 going into the game, and next year the editors hope to expand the newsletter to bigger audiences, like football games.

    4 a.m. Saturday

    Back to McKale to check out the scene again. A police officer orders students to leave the immediate area of the arena and to sit on the grass next to the steps. “”You can’t form the line until four hours before game time,”” University of Arizona Police Department after-hours patrol supervisor Dave Caballero says.

    6 a.m. Saturday

    I’ve been at McKale for about an hour, and there are about 15 people camped out, ready to line up. It is a very brisk 45 degrees outside, but the fans don’t seem to notice. One fan is blaring 50 Cent in his boom box, while others are playing football. Only three people attempt to sleep.

    7 a.m. Saturday

    Fans have been drinking energy drinks and coffee to stay awake throughout all this, and for the most part, they have all been amazingly upbeat. In talking to some of the campers to get some sense as to why in the world they would do such a thing, I am a little bewildered (maybe delirious at this hour) how so many people can just sit and wait for hours on end. Journalism sophomore Andy Greenberg, who was camping out for the first time, was also a little confused as to why he was there so early.

    “”I’m tired, and it’s so cold out here,”” Greenberg said. “”This better be worth it, or else I’ll just be really mad. If we are getting blown out, I might leave at halftime, just because I’m going to want to go to bed.

    “”This is seriously the dumbest thing I have ever done,”” he said.

    Other students were more optimistic about the wait time.

    “”Random people are sleeping on my shoulder and I don’t even know them,”” said business administration senior Matt Van Horn. “”I’m not complaining since there’s a great sense of community here.””

    9:10 a.m. Saturday

    The last few hours have been pretty dead at McKale. Fans slowly start to pour into the line. I attempt to doze off for a few minutes until I feel someone rub up against my back. I angrily tell the person to move back, and I don’t even feel bad – I’ve been wide awake for the last 21 hours. At this time there are probably about 50 people behind me.

    Noon, Saturday

    The line is officially formed at the Zona Zoo entrance when employees rope off three parts of the line. Arizona head coach Lute Olson walks out carrying about 20 pizza boxes and delivers them to fans. He tells the fans that he loves their dedication to the team. He walks up to me and shakes my hand, and I realize that I can die now.

    12:25 p.m. Saturday

    It has warmed up significantly and sitting out in the sun has really started to take its physical toll on me. I have been wide awake for over a day now, and I’m really struggling to keep my eyes open. I don’t know how I am going to be alert and energetic enough to sit in the first few rows. Hopefully in 210 minutes, I will get a second wind, because I am utterly exhausted. There are about 200 people behind me in line, curving all the way up around McKale.

    12:45 p.m. Saturday

    Arguments start to brew over who got in line first. There were accusations of people shoving to get to the front of the line at 8 a.m. The arguments are quelled when students start up a techno dance party on the steps.

    1:15 p.m. Saturday

    Approximately 500 fans are lined up all the way to the front McKale entrance, and pumped-up fans start to chant “”U of A.”” The line for

    students who don’t have tickets is really starting to grow, now to about 40 people. These students cannot be admitted until 10 minutes before the game starts, if tickets are unused and become available to be sold. Greenberg now has a different view on camping out so early.

    “”I’m a lot happier now,”” he said. “”My attitude has changed immensely.””

    1:50 p.m. Saturday

    Freshman guard David Bagga walks out, jumping around, yelling at fans to be loud for the game, basically making a complete fool out of himself, but who can blame him for wanting his fans to go crazy for the biggest game of the year?

    Bagga walks up to me, gives me a high five, jumps on me, lifts me up, grabs my red hat that I was going to look so fashionable in, and puts it on his head. He yells at me in front of all the fans, “”Are you hyped?”” and then runs back into McKale jumping in excitement.

    2 p.m. Saturday

    … And not a second later, after fans count down from 10, we all sprint to the court, getting the best possible seats.

    The people who normally sit in the front row with all the face paint are relegated to sitting in the second row after all the controversy surrounding who got in line first. The new guys in the front row yell profanities at Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar after he makes a kind gesture by taking a picture with four Arizona students covered with red face paint.

    3:00 p.m. Saturday

    The guy in front of me is sound asleep, with good reason, despite the band coming out to play “”Bear Down, Arizona.””

    4:00 p.m. Saturday

    Inside McKale the scene is amazing. Fans are getting loud for the game, and it is by far the most energetic performance of the year. Everything seems right for an Arizona win. The fan who competes in the Circle-K Spot Shot Competition makes all of his shots and wins a new car. Even Wilbur makes his half-court shot on the second try. That never happens.

    6 p.m. Saturday

    A fan is arrested for throwing his soda down the tunnel at a Washington player.

    8 p.m. Saturday

    After the game, I go to Taco Bell to eat dinner. I walk in, only to find the whole Washington Huskies basketball team. I start to become really angry, especially because they are the team that forced me to witness one of the more heartbreaking losses in recent past. However, I congratulate the team and talk to senior standout Brandon Roy about the intensity of the fans and what kind of impact it had on the game.

    “”I haven’t seen fans that rowdy, especially in a Pac-10 game, in a while,”” Roy said. “”The fans really kept our team from coming back earlier than we did. We would have had an easier time coming back had the crowd been like usual Pac-10 crowds.

    “”I also loved all the red in the crowd; that was really something else.””

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