This story starts with an interception. Actually, two.
The first in this tale, but not chronologically, came last night in Tempe when Arizona State safety Troy Nolan tipped a pass to himself, pulled it down two yards deep in his own end zone and sprinted 100-plus yards down the Sun Devils sideline into the far end zone for a touchdown. That it was Senior Night – his and 14 other players’ last time to run onto the turf at Sun Devil Stadium, made it all the more memorable.
Years ago I had my own Senior Night. I never played, mind you, so I didn’t actually run onto the field at any point in time. But on a cold November evening 18 years ago, I had the rare opportunity to watch an entire Arizona State football game in person. Rare, because I was working part-time at the then-Mesa Tribune on the sports desk and I wasn’t able to take full Saturday nights off. Most times, I’d go to the office early, leave to catch the first half of a game, then return at halftime.
Not so on these evening, the Sun Devils’ next-to-last home game in 1990, a night marked by another interception. Nathan LaDuke snared the ball at his own 5-yard line and what followed was less a return than an odyssey, swinging 50 yards to the far sideline and then 50 yards back to the near sideline as he weaved his way for a 95-yard touchdown – 95 yards in linear distance and closer to 200 yards in reality with the sweeps of the field.
The moment was further captured for me during the tape-delay of the broadcast when I was caught on camera, one arm draped around my buddy Chad and another arm in the air as Nathan sprinted and dodged and ducked and sprinted again. Given the sad state of ASU football during my time there, it was a moment worth savoring.
As was the post-game when I finally mustered the courage to say hello to Maryanne Robinson, a Sun Devils cheerleader by way of West Virginia. Sadly, nothing more came out of the hello aside from a couple of conversations the following fall. It was different then, though. No longer was I in the student section. Instead I was in shirt and tie with a press pass hanging from a belt loop, repressing the urge to cheer while writing about Saturday night games for a Monday afternoon paper.
My personal odometer had rolled for the first time, but certainly not the last.
Last night, the ASU faithful bid farewell to another senior class as has been done countless times before. (The only year it didn’t happen was 2001 when the moronic Dirk Koetter eliminated the pregame senior introductions because he “didn’t see the big deal.”)
One or two of these players may be seen on Sundays. Most will be moving onto other walks of life after next week’s game at the University of Arizona.
And that’s where my odometer next will roll … last night I watched the game with the 9-year-old princess, who is just now understanding why these players can’t play for Arizona State forever; it was a harder explanation last year.
Next week she makes her first trip to Tucson for the ASU-U of A game on the same day that I make my 10th … my 20th consecutive ASU-UA game overall.
The second game in that streak was 1990 in Tucson’s Arizona Stadium.
Naturally, I left at the end of the third quarter to get back to my job at the Tribune.[tags]Phoenix real estate[/tags]