You never want to get bad news over the phone.
There’s no warning. You can’t see it in the other person’s eyes. There’s no grim expression to put you on your guard. Just…bam.
I thought it was going to be a typical call from the University of Arizona athletic department. Probably a recorded message asking me to renew my football season tickets. Maybe a promotion for the new Wildcat Movement. No, it was a live person with news I wasn’t ready to hear.
The Red Zone is gone.
Cue the horror movie sound effects and start the overly dramatic screaming and wailing!
In order to get a crane in place to help install the new Gamera-sized scoreboard the rickety warped bleachers affectionately known as the Red Zone had to be removed.
I’m not mad at anyone. I know the video board will greatly enhance the gameday experience which will be good for business which will help with the business of winning which is what everyone in Arizona Stadium wants no matter where they sit.
But it’s still sad. It’s like seeing your first home condemned and demolished.
I moved back to Tucson in 2003. My first season tickets were in the reserved seats in the south end zone but thanks to John Mackovic we could wander around the half-empty stadium and sit wherever we wanted. Starting in Mike Stoops’ first season I moved into the Red Zone.
I loved it. There was nothing better than getting to the game early enough to hang over the rail in the front row. Yes, half the game the ball was on the wrong end of the field but the times when the action was right in front of you made up for it.
The fans were certainly “spirited” and the action was definitely “in-your-face.”
When the ball was inside the 20 you felt like you were in the huddle. If the other team committed a false start it was your false start. When the Cats punched it in you felt like you threw a block.
It was a quirky little section with its own traditions. Catching a football during kicking practice and tossing it up the stands until someone on top threw it out onto Sixth Street. Singing “Bear Down, Arizona!” and chanting “A-R-I-Z-O-N-A!” with the band. Letting visiting players have it during warm-ups (and having them run over and give it back if they won the game).
A few new traditions were starting to take hold. Yelling “Bear Down!” after every kickoff. Imploring Backflip the Male Cheerleader to do his thing. An unhealthy obsession with free Jack-in-the-Box “tacos.”
Then, mixing a little Green Bay with some Red and Blue…the Bear Down Bound:
(Fast forward to the 0:50 mark if you want to skip ahead to the fireworks, so to speak. Somewhere amidst the shaking a player is jumping into the stands. You’ll have to take my word for it.)
First-come-first-served seating. Standing the whole game. It was a place where people who were too old to be in the student section could act like they were in the student section.
Yes, sometimes things went too far. I never witnessed any violence but there were some verbal altercations if a color other than red entered the zone (you’ll have to find those YouTube videos on your own).
The official word is the section is only gone for 2011 but the follow-up email from the ticket office says, “We will evaluate options for seating in this area in the future.” I take that to mean, “You should probably get used to having to sit during games.”
I understand the economics of things. If you’re going to have to spend the money tearing out the bleachers and putting in new ones, why not establish assigned seats and increase the revenue opportunity?
I also understand liability concerns. The Wall of Doom successfully kept the ZonaZoo from rushing the field last year. It wouldn’t surprise me if steps were taken to rein in the last non-student general admission section in the stadium.
The saddest part is we were evicted from our neighborhood without a chance to say goodbye. The Zona Defenders. Face Paint Guy. Red Afro Wig Man and Blue Afro Wig Man. The Really Intense Thin Dancing Triplets.
My fellow Red Zone exiles, we must stay positive. Now that we have reserved seats it means we can tailgate longer. If we move out of the south end zone we can see the new video board without giving ourselves whiplash.
We still get to watch the Arizona Wildcats play football.
Keep the energy up. If the Red Zone comes back we’ll reunite in the Promised Land. If not we’ll have to inject the rest of the stadium with little pockets of passion.
Red Zone passion.
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