LAS VEGAS – It sounds like a set-up line from amateur night at the Improv: It’s been so long since Arizona has been to a bowl . . .
That Britney Spears didn’t even have a career to come back from.
That Tony Soprano had yet to have his first panic attack on HBO.
Yes, indeed, the Wildcats put down a long stretch of road between postseason appearances. Ten years. Ten long years.
It’s been so long since Arizona has been to a bowl that UA sophomore defensive end Brooks Reed – a Tucson kid, a Sabino High School graduate – doesn’t remember ever watching the Wildcats in a bowl game.
“Yeah, that’s how long it’s been,” he said.
The Wildcats arrived in Sin City on Tuesday night in advance of Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl against BYU. The last time an Arizona team was practicing this late on the calendar, it was for the 1998 Holiday Bowl.
“I was 11 years old,” Reed said.
“I’m sure my dad remembers. We played . . . uh, Nebraska?”
Uh, yeah, Nebraska.
“I didn’t see it,” Reed said.
It’s been so long since UA was in the postseason that one of the Holiday bowl gifts to the players that year was a CD player. That cutting-edge technology is brought to you direct from the 1990s.
“We got sweats, T-shirts, hats, a couple of pair of shoes,” ex-Wildcat Brandon Nash said of the Holiday Bowl booty. “As far as electronics, we got a CD player and headphones, and a watch that was pretty cheap.”
This season, the Las Vegas Bowl – which, like all the bowls, is allowed to give gift bags filled with goodies valued under $500 – is handing out a Wii system bundle package.
It’s been so long since UA has been to a bowl that Harry Potter had yet to battle his first dementor.
It’s been so long that if you had the Internet, slowly surfing on dial-up, you might have just heard of this new, cool site called Google.
It’s been so long that Barack Obama was just wrapping up his second year in the Illinois senate.
It’s been so long that Jay Leno was telling jokes about Bill Clinton having “sexual relations with that woman.” Well, I guess some things never change.
It’s been so long since UA has been to a bowl that Dave Oathout, a 29-year-old Tucson native who has been “going to games since I was a pup” is finally in position to make his first postseason appearance.
Oathout is one of seven founding members of the Red Army, a dedicated fan group that has become part of the ambiance at Arizona Stadium. Oathout, a UA student in the late 1990s, once got thrown out of a game after a dispute that began when other students told him to sit down.
“I said, ‘Excuse me, this is the student section; you don’t sit down,’ ” Oathout said.
Soon after, the group of friends formed the Red Army.
Oathout missed out on the 1998 Holiday Bowl – “One of the dumb things I said was, ‘We can go next year’ – but will be traveling Friday to Las Vegas with the burgeoning Red Army crowd.
“My wife gave me the pass to ditch the family Christmas party to go to the bowl game,” he said. “She said, ‘If you don’t go, you’re going to be miserable, so just go.’ ”
It’s been so long since UA has been to a bowl that this week’s team hotel, the Venetian, wasn’t built. Neither was the Paris, nor the Wynn. Neither was the Palazzo, nor the hotel now known as Planet Hollywood.
The Bellagio was brand new.
When UA last went to a bowl, Joe DiMaggio, Walter Payton, Payne Stewart and Wilt Chamberlain were still alive.
The euro had not quite been introduced as currency.
George Clooney was still on “ER.”
It’s been so long that four of the most successful college coaches of this decade – USC’s Pete Carroll, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, Florida’s Urban Meyer and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops – had yet to be a head coach in Division I-A.
It’s been so long that only six of the 65 coaches of major-conference teams are still with the same team. Trivia answer: Penn State’s Joe Paterno, Florida State’s Bobby Bowden, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, Oregon’s Mike Bellotti, Texas’ Mack Brown and South Florida’s Jim Leavitt.
It’s been so long that South Florida wasn’t even a Division I-A program yet.
It’s been so long since Arizona has been to a bowl that the postseason has grown by more than 33 percent.
There were 22 bowls in 1998. Now, there are 34, which means it’s no longer such a great plus to get to a bowl; instead, it’s just a huge minus if you don’t.
For this year, though, that’s somebody else’s worry. Not Arizona’s.
So long to that bowl drought.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org