Autograph Hound's Blah Blah Blog

Monday, October 11, 2010

The secret word: UofA

Groucho – Tell me the secret word and I’ll give you $50. Give me $50 and I’ll tell you the secret word…
At times the UofA feels like that secret word.  It’s something that pops up out of nowhere and I get a connection to someone that I didn’t expect.
I went to the UofA (Arizona - the better of the three Universities in AZ) over 2 decades ago. I am not and never was a huge supporter of their teams and I never give money to the alumni association.  My friends are astonished when I don’t know when we play or how we are ranked in the polls.  I went to one football game while I was there. I never saw a basketball game and only went to a few baseball games because it was free and we used to do a betting pool and I got stuck tracking the results and holding the money.
I really enjoyed getting my Bachelors there. It only took me 5 ¾ years but I got my 4 year degree and I must admit it was good times. I even met my wife there.
After I matriculated, I never looked back. I moved to Texas and started grinding away at a job.
One thing I started doing was wearing golf shirts; the pull overs with a few buttons at the chest and a logo on the breast. There are light weight and cool and semi-fashionable for work or home.  For one reason or another I started wearing ones that had the UofA logo on them. Silly considering how bad of an alumni I am.
The odd thing is people would stop me and ask if I was from Tucson or tell me there went there too. It was a walking conversation piece and it was amazing when and where I would get stopped.
One time my wife and I were on the ferry going to the Statue of Liberty and a couple asked the typical question. They mentioned they just moved to a small town south of Tucson. That town was the same small town my wife grew up in.  What are the odds of meeting ‘neighbors’ in NYC?
This also happens at signings.  The year I got Steve Carlton’s  autograph in Houston was the year the Phillies asked Mike Schmidt to be a spring training batting instructor. When it was my time to get a ball signed I mentioned the Phillies should have asked Carlton to spring training also. He mentioned that they did but he had other commitments.  He looked up and saw the UofA shirt and asked if I lived there. I told him I went to school there but live up near Dallas. 
This intrigued him. He finished with my ball and before I left, he asked me to stay a moment. He signed a few more balls and told me he really liked AZ. I don’t remember any more of the conversation. I just remember security wanting me to move along but Steve kept telling me to stay.
At another show, Ozzie Smith saw my shirt when he handed my ball back and told me a good friend of his went to the UofA. Thinking it was personal friend I asked who. He told me it was Terry Francona. At the time Terry was coaching my Phillies; my favorite team which I let Ozzie know. I got very excited as I didn’t know that Terry went to there also.  Terry graduated just before I got to college so I never saw him play.
A year or so later I saw Terry at the Houston ball park and got his autograph. I showed him my UofA shirt and told him I met my wife there.  He smiled and asked if she was at the game. I said yes, and pointed and he looked over and waved to her. It embarrassed my wife but that was pretty neat.
I went to several Nationals in a row so I started recognizing some of the people that work there. One of the guys must have been a people watcher too as he recognized me and commented on my shirt. He also attended the UofA.  This guy was one of the handlers for the players; he would show them where to sit and accompany them as they signed and would keep the line moving. Later at that same show he was there with Tito Francona. He told Tito I was a friend and I also went to the UofA where his son Terry had gone.  Tito gave me a big strong handshake to welcome me to the ‘club’.
At the 2010 ComicCon I was on the convention floor and saw Christopher Judge (Stargate SG1) signing at a booth. I came over and he signed a photo for me. He saw my UofA shirt and asked if I was from Tucson.  After telling him I spent 5 and ¾ years there working on my degree, he laughed and asked when I went there. Surprisingly we are about the same age and we attended school at the same time. If I had seen more games I would have seen him play…or not.  He said that he blew out his knee at Arizona Stadium and that ended his football career.  So of course I asked him how that happened.  He got so excited to talk football. He went into detail about the players on his team (Oregon Ducks) and his opponents (my Wildcats), what the assignments were and then he started describing the play.  He HAD to get out of his seat.  Words would not do the incident justice. He moved chairs out of the way so he had plenty of room. He started reenacting the play and how his foot went one way and his knee went another.  Just like a kid. Or like a million other frustrated athletes that couldn’t make it big; just like the rest of us getting waylaid on our journey through life.  I bet he beamed with happiness the rest of the day because he got to tell his football injury story.
So the secret word for me is the UofA shirts I wear. They start conversations and make connections with a lot of different people.

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