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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wass this way: A final reflection

    I stood on the field at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas long before the Arizona football team beat BYU in the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl to achieve its first postseason victory since 1998.

    Senior quarterback Willie Tuitama had yet to complete his 6-yard scramble to the end zone with just more than six minutes remaining in the game to seal the deal for the Wildcats, but I had already been contemplating what it would be like for the Arizona seniors to go out as winners after enduring years of disappointment.

    Following the celebration by the Wildcat faithful, I had the opportunity to catch up with Tuitama and ask him exactly what it felt like to finally have no more to prove. Though I had done countless interviews with Tuitama throughout my time at the Daily Wildcat, ironically enough, I didn’t hear a word he said when he answered perhaps one of the most important questions I had ever asked him.

    Right as I uttered, “”Willie, what is it like to go out on top as a senior?”” and he began to talk, I had an epiphany – I was on my way out, too.

    Instead of hearing Tuitama speak on what was arguably one of the best sports moments of his illustrious career – not to mention concentrating on the story I was about to write – I couldn’t help but think to myself that this was it for me as well.

    While everyone gathered around thinking about how Arizona head coach Mike Stoops’ first full recruiting class won a bowl game, the past four years swirled through my mind as if they were all happening instantaneously.

    The countless memories that accompanied them rushed through my body, and I had to do all I could not to become emotional while Tuitama continued to speak. Sure, the Wildcats finished what they had started, but for me, four years, hundreds of bylines, and countless memories were over.

    Tuitama continued to talk – which is only natural given the magnitude of the situation and the accomplishment he lead the Wildcats to during his four years in Tucson – but I continued to contemplate the memories:

    – I looked over to the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, my girlfriend Debbie Bain, celebrating on the Las Vegas field while I interviewed Tuitama and thanked God I got to spend the last four years with her. All the memories with her couldn’t fit in this newspaper.

    – I remembered then-sports editor Michael Schwartz and his bold decision to hire me four years ago even though my writing was completely terrible. You can still find my lacrosse stories online and when I look at them, I still don’t know how they were published and why I still had a job.

    – I remembered driving to Los Angeles with fellow football beat writer Brian Kimball and listening to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony all the way there and how we were about to get paid to sit in the Rose Bowl press box. I still don’t know how we made it there alive.

    – I remembered being called a “”dick-wad”” by an Arizona media relations person in front of all the Tucson media in the Rose Bowl press box because I asked why there wasn’t a press conference on a bye week. Lesson learned.

    – I remembered how I was so geared up to go to Eugene, Ore., and see Autzen Stadium. The stadium was crazy – maybe one of the best I have ever been to – but I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the bar scene.

    – I remembered going to the volleyball games before I got the football beat and not knowing what I was doing, but thanks to my best friend Andrew Levy, who attended the games with me in support, I made it through it.

    – I remembered football interviews every Monday through Wednesday and holding my recorder in an athlete’s face though I was blatantly not listening. The UA media relations also caught wind of that and I paid for it.

    – I remembered asking some pretty stupid questions of Stoops in weekly press conferences. I also remembered asking defensive coordinator Mark Stoops – who was on Miami’s staff in 2002 – if the call at the end of the title game that year was pass interference. In case you forgot, Ohio State won it all that year.

    – I remembered the countless hours spent in the Wildcat newsroom “”working.”” OK, we were playing basketball, listening to music, cracking jokes, procrastinating, editing, watching sports, asking people “”would you beat?”” and just enjoying college. That means time spent with B-Roy, Lancey PooPoo, Schwartz, Kimballs, Krotch and all my other good friends at the Wildcat.

    – I remembered my conversations with my mother, father or brother almost daily, talking about life, school, work and anything else I needed. They have always been there for me and I love all of them with all of my heart.

    I wish I could go on and on with my memories, but like all things in life, there is a limit. It’s truly amazing how fast my time as a college student has gone, because it seems like yesterday I was registering at the dorms at La Paz and moving in as a freshman.

    As we all continue down our paths of life, it is these past four years that we will always carry with us. I want to congratulate all of those who will be walking onto the stage at graduation and through the threshold of adulthood.

    These past four years have gone by quick, but they will always be close to my heart.

    – Ari Wassserman is a graduating journalism senior. He can be contacted at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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