At the Fashion Square Starbucks yesterday waiting for my soy hot chocolate, as I was busy checking out a hot chick who was waiting for her vanilla latte…I was approached by a 50 something gay man who proceeded with the dreaded intro “Do you mind if I ask you something?” At first I though I had been staring too obviously at the girl and he was going to call me out for it, but then I figured it was just going to be a typical homosexual proposition…of which I have received thousands in my short lifetime. To my surprise though, he pointed toward three middle aged, ordinary looking guys who were in line and busted out with his question, “So who do you think dresses those 3 guys?” I looked back at him with a lighthearted smile and shrugged “I don’t know..Walmart maybe?” To which he replied “I’m thinking Mesa.” As he was headed out the door we gave each other a wave goodbye, and I said “Take it easy, pal.” A cool dude, but at the same time I kinda felt bad for the three guys. They just didn’t care about fashion or Scottsdale style..so what? As I gave them a another look I noticed one of them had an “Oklahoma Sooners” sweatshirt. Sure enough. Of course! Indeed the mall was packed with people from Oklahoma and Connecticut in town for the Fiesta Bowl to watch and cheer on their respective teams.
The first thing the incident brought to mind was that this is my home. That I in fact, belong here and this guy singled me out as being one of his kind was his way of saying “You and me, this is our territory. Who the hell are these guys and what are they doing here?” He saw me as one of his own, a fashion conscious, mild mannered, style oriented person of the East Phoenix/Scottsdale persuasion. Some people might find that disgusting, and maybe I do on some level. But as someone who has been on the other end of the equation, the stranger from out of town who draws peculiar stares and prompts cliche “Rebel Without a Cause” or “The Wraith” type questions like “You ain’t from around here are you?”(you should have seen the looks that I got from people while wandering through the Pittsburgh bar scene a few years ago) it was nice to for once be one of the “us” and not “them.” And of course, deep down I am like that 50 something Scottsdale gay guy…judgmental about people’s styles and often superficially able to dismiss “folks” out of hand, embarrassed to be seen with people who are unattractive or wack…too busy to take the time to get entangled in people’s troubles and too laid back to care about them. Rightly or wrongly…I must admit those characteristics manifest themselves in my personality and have for as long as I can remember. They can be kept in check but not eliminated.
The second thing this incident made me think of was the 1987 Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Penn State, the most memorable college football game of my childhood and a classic battle between “good and evil.” I watched this game in my grandparents living room in Phoenix on the evening of January 2, 1987. It was actually played at Sun Devil stadium in Tempe. I wanted Penn State to win in the worst way, since they were the underdog. Miami was heavily favored, and I never really expected Penn State to win(how I was able to draw up scenarios in my head and attempt to predict the outcome of football games at that young of age is a mystery to me.)
In Chuck Klosterman’s book “Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs” he devotes a chapter to the 1980′s NBA rivalry between the “Lakers and Celtics” as being a microcosm for almost everything in life:
“As I have grown older, it’s become clear that the Lakers-Celtics rivalry represents absolutely everything: race, religion, politics, mathematics, the reason I’m still not married, the Challenger explosion, Man vs. Beast, and everything else. There is no relationship that isn’t a Lakers-Celtics relationship.”
Indeed, the same could be said of the 1987 Sunkist Fiesta Bowl(incidentally the first major bowl game ever to have a corporate sponsor in the title.) In fact, it was originally hyped as being good vs. evil before the game was even played. The slicked back hair of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson and his Heisman trophy quarterback Vinny Testaverde along with all the arrogant, suntanned, too cool for school, flashy Miami Hurricanes vs. old stalwart Joe Paterno and some blue collar, steeltown, god and country boys from Pennsylvania. The fast paced, showy, light up the scoreboard passing game of Miami vs the disciplined defense and fundamentals oriented Penn State. Looking back at that game, it’s clear that while Penn State may have won the battle..our side lost the war. Most of today’s sports teams resemble the Miami Hurricanes of 1987, and sports and society in general have long since adopted Miami’s as the dominant ethos. The steel mills and factories in Pittsburgh and all along the rust belt have all but disappeared down. College players skip their senior year to go pro for big bucks to spend on goods made in China and Japanese cars which they drive around with one the endless amount of trashy women they cheat on their spouses with. It’s difficult to reconcile the measured temperament and suit and tie demeanor of the 1987 Penn State Nittany Lions with the inarticulate, roided out, foul mouthed, gold toothed pimp athlete/monsters of today. Not only that, but nearly all college bowl games now have some sort of major corporate sponsorship. Heck, a crapload of the modern bowl games are straight up named for corporations: (Insight Bowl, Godaddy.com Bowl, The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl…no I’m not making these up.) In fact, my once favorite bowl game “The Citrus Bowl”(I thought it had a cool logo) is now called “The Capital One Bowl.” Sigh…named after a fucking credit card! Oh I forgot we import more of our fruits from Canada and Central America now while our main industries are finance, real estate, retail clothing and fast food. No more need for a citrus bowl! It’s obsolete. Maybe not quite yet, but soon….
“While growth in U.S. fruit exports has been strong, the United States has remained a net fruit importer. U.S. fruit imports grew during the last two decades and through the mid- to late-2000s, due in part to the growing minority ethnic populations in the United States and to an increased demand for new products. Not only have imports expanded for commodities already produced domestically, creating competition for U.S. producers, but imports have also increased for nontraditional fruits, especially many tropical fruits.”
Anyway enough about all that. One memory that stands out for me is that almost immediately after the game was over, they cut to local news which upset my uncle because they interrupted a shot of the cheerleaders. He actually got so angry that he called the television station to complain! To this day I’m still not sure whether he was joking or not, but I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t.
It ended up being the most watched college football game ever, and I will never forget it. The thing I always wonder though, is whether I grew up to be a Miami Hurricanes person. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl was a seesaw game that frequently plays out in my head as I make decisions. It was a close game. It is still a very close game.