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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat 54 year old Joe Flaharty, an alumnus from UA’s business class of 1982, is inside the Hall of Champions at McKale Center on Monday, Sept 20. Flaharty has been in attendance at as many Wildcat sports games as he possibly could since the beginning of his college days 1976 and has been there to support the student athletes and coaches ever since then.

Joe Flaharty may be one of the most recognizable faces to everyone involved with Arizona athletics, whether it be by fans, athletes or administrators.

Spend one minute with Flaharty, and you’re guaranteed to learn something about Wildcat sports that you didn’t know. Flaharty graduated from the UA in 1982, after transferring from Michigan State, with a degree in business management and a minor in sociology. He has been a die-hard fan of Arizona athletics for over 23 years and has built relationships with UA athletes and coaches all throughout McKale Center.

He finds a great deal of pride in mentioning that he attended Michigan State when Magic Johnson led the Spartans to a national championship in 1979 and later lived in Tucson when Arizona won the 1997 national championship.

He’s not your average fan. Unlike the majority, Flaharty has had regular conversations with almost all the coaches in the Arizona athletic department, most notably Mike Candrea, Niya Butts and Sean Miller.

Everyone is drawn to his unwavering loyalty and passion for every Wildcat sport. Over the weekend, he attended two soccer games, a football game and even a volleyball game. He makes it known that softball legend Jenny Finch and former Arizona soccer player Mallory Miller are some of his all-time favorite Wildcats.

“”I would definitely give him the label of super fan,”” said softball coach Mike Candrea. “”I see him at church sometimes, and he’s so excited to talk about the next practice or next game. He’s always so supportive of our program. We need 3,000 more like him.””

Last year, Flaharty’s support caught the soccer team’s attention and former head coach Dan Tobias suggested the team dedicate its season to Flaharty.

The players agreed.

“”Every game, he sits in the same spot and makes sure we hear him cheering us on,”” said Arizona soccer player Renae Cuellar. “”He holds a special place in our hearts, and we always look forward to seeing him in the stands. No matter what the result is, ‘super fan’ will always be proud of our team and encourage us.””

Last season, when the Arizona soccer team had early morning practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, Flaharty would be in the stands at 7 a.m., supporting the team as if it were a game.

“”We know that he dedicates a lot of his time to us and supporting our team,”” Cuellar said. “”He deserved to have our season dedicated to him.””

Over the last year, Flaharty could be seen hopping around on one leg after getting his left leg amputated in June 2009. But it still didn’t stop his constant support for the athletic department.

Having grown up playing basketball, football and tennis in high school in his hometown of Birmingham, Mich., Flaharty has always been quite active himself. But in late June 2009, his dedication to UA athletics and love for sports was challenged.

He used to work out three times a day from weight lifting to basketball and tennis, then changed his workout routine to swimming and running as he got older. Like most people, Flaharty, 54, felt the effects of a new workout routine, but his case was much more than post workout soreness.

“”I woke up on a Monday morning and my leg was totally numb,”” Flaharty said. “”I just tried to rest, I attributed it to doing a different workout than what I normally do. By Wednesday my thigh got better but when late Wednesday came, my foot was hurting and I couldn’t hardly walk on it.””

By that Friday, Flaharty had scheduled a visit to an orthopedic doctor, and the results were devastating.

“”He ended up sending me to the emergency room, and at that point, they had confirmed my fears,”” he said. “”They found out that it was a blood clot. I knew I had waited too long.””

For the next couple of days, doctors made several attempts to bring circulation back in his left leg.

“”They did three procedures in three days, clearing the blood clot the second day and getting circulation on the third day,”” Flaharty said.

Though the doctors got circulation back in the leg, it didn’t last long, and there was only one last option.

“”I had circulation for about a day and a half, then the circulation went away and they had to amputate,”” he said. “”They did two amputations below the knee, everything below the knee was shot due to the lack of blood and oxygen, so they had to do a third amputation above the knee.””

Flaharty remembers the feeling when he found out that his leg would have to be amputated.

“”I was in shock at first, saying ‘c’mon you can’t be serious’ and then the doctor said we have to,”” Flaharty said. “”Then I knew if I didn’t get the amputation it could eventually cause death.””

“”After the first operation, I woke up in recovery and I didn’t know where I was,”” he said. “”I said where am I? Who are these people? Why did they kidnap me? I was getting ready to get up to run and I look down then I was like now I remember I lost my leg. Then I said get me some ice water.””

Despite having to deal with the reality of losing his leg, over time he became more aware and comfortable, realizing he could still live an active life.

“”I knew there were improved prosthetics and donor limbs, I knew if I continued to fight I could still live an active life and be an inspiration to others,”” he said.

Though there is a soreness that comes with walking around with his prosthetics, Flaharty remains dedicated to Arizona athletics and still manages to attend three to five UA sporting events a week.

“”It’s hard sometimes, but we should support the student athletes because they give everything to their sport,”” he said. “”They deal with injuries, hardships, and they’re full-time students.

“”The kids motivated me through it all because I would still go to the practices and see what they were going through when they would rehab injuries,”” he added.

Flaharty, who has always loved the game of basketball, hopes to eventually become a coach in high school or maybe an assistant on the UA women’s team. One of the things he hopes to accomplish is to be a part of the UA athletic department through coaching or as an administrator.

“”It would be a dream come true for me,”” Flaharty said.

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