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Tucson Weekly Ups And Downs

What In The Wide World Of Sports Is Going On Around Here?

By Tom Danehy

JUNE 21, 1999:  IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS of late-breaking development in the world of sports:

• SEAN ELLIOTT LEADS SAN ANTONIO SPURS INTO NBA FINALS: This is so cool it just makes you wanna pee. Despite his brilliant career, Sean has not only never won a championship, he has never even reached a championship game or series.

In high school at Cholla, his heavily favored Chargers lost in the state semi-finals to Phoenix Alhambra. (One amazing note: Alhambra went on to win the championship, beating Tucson Catalina in the finals. Yes, Catalina, which, to my knowledge, hasn't won a conference championship in anything in more than a decade. That Catalina team was led by James Bayliss and current Desert View girls basketball coach Sam Mendivil.)

In college, Sean's teams were upset by UTEP at McKale, by Oklahoma in the Final Four, and by UNLV in the Sweet 16. Oh, the nightmares.

But now, Sean's in the Finals, favored to win the crown. He has overcome injuries, an embarrassing trade to Detroit, overshadowing by the Twin Towers, and the pain of having to appear on The Jim Rome Show. He will wear a championship ring well.

UPSIDE: He's been an NBA All-Star, had a great career, overcome adversity, and has achieved legendary status with his tip-toe three-pointer from the sideline in Game Two against the Blazers. Might as well top it off with a title.

DOWNSIDE: I have to admit it will always sadden me a bit that John Stockton and Karl Malone will probably never win an NBA title. Despite all the johnny-come-lately bitching about Malone's style of play, Utah plays basketball the way it is meant to be played--neither flashy nor dirty, just hard and relentlessly.

HEROIN DEATH EPIDEMIC HITS PLANO, TEXAS: Highlighted by the recent overdose death of former Dallas Cowboy Mark Tuinei is a story of a rash of heroin-related deaths in the upscale Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas.

A few years ago, Plano was hit by a flurry of rich kids committing suicide. At a high-school football game involving Plano, a student from the rival school held up a sign which read, "Don't Kill Plano; They'll Kill Themselves."

Now it's heroin. Several hip, popular high-school kids have hit the Janis Joplin Expressway, then taken the Lenny Bruce turnoff to Billie Holidayland. I'm tryin' real hard to feel sorry for them.

UPSIDE: Kids in neighborhoods where Dad and Step-Mom don't both drive Mercedes will get a jolting reminder of just how stupid drug use really is.

DOWNSIDE: Let's see. The downside of rich, spoiled people getting so bored with having everything that they have to try drug-slumming? Give me a second; I'm sure there's something....

• NEW HIGH SCHOOL IN PHOENIX NAMED FOR CESAR CHAVEZ: I got to meet him once when I was in high school, and I assured him I was down with La Huelga. I didn't mention that I was also horribly allergic to grapes. I'm pretty sure I would have boycotted them, anyway. I'm just glad he wasn't boycotting Doritos; that would have put my liberal political pedigree to a real test.

But what are they going to call the mascot of this school? The Migrant Workers? The Grape Pickers? The Strikers? Hey, here's one from Emil Franzi's cloudy GOP past: Los Braceros.

UPSIDE: School honors a truly great man who devoted his entire life to helping others.

DOWNSIDE: Sets an ominous precedent. What happens in 20 years if people who grew up under different prevailing political winds try to name a high school for Rush Limbaugh or Oliver North? We're just going to have to march out of Green Valley (very slowly) to protest that one.

PRESEASON FOOTBALL MAGAZINE HAS UA NO. 4 IN COUNTRY: There are only two wonderful days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. One is the Summer Solstice when, while realizing that we still have four more months of hot and nasty weather, we also take solace in the knowledge that the days are becoming incrementally shorter as we head toward football and basketball seasons.

The other is the day the first football mags hit the stands. They're overpriced and under-informational, but they're about football, by golly. In June!

Athlon magazine has the University of Arizona listed at No. 4 in the country and the odds-on favorite to win its first-ever Pac-10 championship. This is, of course, way cool. But the Cats open at Penn State and have to try to run the vicious Pac-10 gauntlet, including games at UCLA and Arizona State.

UPSIDES: Arizona will have been in the Top 5 since beating Nebraska last December until at least the Penn State game. Almost nobody talks about ASU any more.

POTENTIAL DOWNSIDES: Almost nobody runs the Pac-10 table. While the UA is ranked No. 4 in the preseason ratings, Penn State is No. 2. The last UA team rated highly in the preseason stumbled badly, losing twice to WAC teams. The Cats will be playing back-to-back brutal 13-game schedules.

MISSOURI VALLEY COLLEGE BEGINS WOMEN'S WRESTLING PROGRAM: I'm not a big fan of wrestling, period, but I always cheer more athletic opportunities for women. Plus, if this catches on, maybe we won't have to read about parents going to court to allow their daughters the opportunity to wrestle against boys. This is creepy.

UPSIDE: When sexist pig radio talk-show host Papa Joe Chevalier hears about this, he'll go freakin' nuts. He'll launch into some right-wing diatribe about how women shouldn't even run track, let alone steal gym time from male basketball teams. It won't be great radio, but it'll be fun radio.

OTHER UPSIDE: It won't be hard to find a coach. After Ally McBeal tanks next year, they can hire Calista Flockhart to teach the wrestlers how to cut weight.

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