My night in the Zoo

I have not been a student at the University of Arizona since the mid-90's. I spent five years going to games on a student ticket. I used to enter the lottery, find a loophole to snatch up unclaimed ticket packages and then try to find a friend who had the other half of the season. Now the system is different, the crowd actually better and I got to experience it first hand.

Thanks to some unused student tickets, I was able to buy a pair. Although I had to pay a bit more than someone with a current Cat Card, I still got into the building for less than $20.

Thanks to my wife going ahead, we get pretty good seats. We are in the first row of the blue seats off the walk-way. Technically I think it is considered the middle bowl. Not upper deck, but not the floor either. The lower bowl is still reserved for true students, not some thirty-something scooping up unused tickets.

I take my seat about 45 minutes before game time. The student section is about 80% full while the rest of the arena is only about 10% full. The kids aren't loud but they seem enthusiastic. A lot are coming in costume so people watching is a lot of fun.

Three semi-drunk students sit in front of us. It is not until a few minutes later that their fourth friend comes walking up. The only problem is that they forgot to save him a seat. "Trent" spots a seat next to me and quickly embrace our new row mate.

To be honest, I think "Trent" got the better end of the deal. Instead of sitting next to his drunk friends, he gets to sit next to a pretty blonde in my row. Of course he also has to sit next to me, so it is a wash. Of course one of his friends did look like he was going to puke, so I will say "Trent" is the winner here. Pretty blonde and no chance for puke, and he's still close enough to high five his friend a row in front of him.

As I said above the people watching is great. We have a lot of painted faces and goofy hats. One kid is sporting a red UA jersey and a captain's hat. That is right he looks like a cross between Fil Tores and The Captain from the Captain and Teneal.

There are also two thin, fit young ladies wearing tank tops and big red and blue afro wigs. They look like characters from an Austin Powers movie or something.

Although there are a ton of non-students in the area I still felt a little old. Most of the students just look, so…so…young. I'm not so out of touch that anything that they wore or said shocked me.

Shortly before the game started Trent began chastising his friends for rushing him into the game. Apparently he had to ditch a bottle Captain Morgan's before he was good and ready.

Most of the game the student section was loud and involved. Surprisingly they remained positive until the very end. Only after the game was over did I start to hear the first rumblings of fans jumping off the bandwagon.

Late in the game Chase Budinger had a transition dunk that put the Cats up seven and the arena erupted. Maybe it was where I was sitting but it was as loud as I have heard McKale in nearly 15 years.

I was surprised how positive the students were. They never really got down on the team. They always cheered and only jeered when a lone USC fan heckled Wildcat free throw shooters.

It was tough watching another loss at McKale, but it was one heck of a game. Being a part of a rowdy crowd was a lot of fun. In the end the Zona Zoo lived up to the hype. They have a ways to go before they join the ranks of the nation's best student sections, but they are much better than what passes as a student section when I was in school.

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