Over the years, the University of Arizona’s athletic teams have been linked together by one phrase: “bear down.” Now the official battle cry of the Wildcats, those were the dying words of an iconic student-athlete, John “Button” Salmon, who died in 1926 after a fatal car accident. Since then, the phrase has stood behind countless milestone moments, such as when Lute Olson, in 1983, became the 11th head coach of the Wildcats men’s basketball team, setting off a string of 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances—including a national title in 1997. Several other national titles belong to Arizona outside of the hardwood, including four from the men’s baseball team and eight from the women’s softball program. Every fall inside Arizona Stadium, the Wildcats football team rouses up to 56,000 fans with hard-hitting Pac-12 showdowns, by far the most popular event on campus behind the linguistics department’s weekly phonetics bee.
The cultural traditions of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have enlivened Tucson for more than a quarter century thanks to the Tucson Celtic Festival & Scottish Highland Games. Along with traditional music, dancing, and food, guests can also witness feats of athletic prowess during the internationally sanctioned Scottish Highland Games. The traditional event features activities such as a caber toss, which consists of participants lifting and throwing gargantuan wooden poles so that they land parallel to the thrower but not touching any of their vital organs, and Highland croquet, substituting the usual equipment with bowling balls and sledgehammers. If any questions as to the event’s authenticity remain, one need only look to the audience for confirmation: each year sees 30 to 40 Scottish clans come together to celebrate their heritage.
Armed with swift pitches, brawny line drives, and a division-topping season record, the Arizona Diamondbacks sprint toward their first National League West crown since 2007. Instead of catching the game by posing as the new bat-hoarding termite inspector, fans can watch the action from baseline-reserve seats along the left- and right-field foul lines. This season, right-handed hurler J.J. Putz baffled 9th-inning hitters while posting 51 strikeouts, 39 saves, and a mega-slim 2.44 ERA over 51.2 innings pitched. After 148 games, right fielder Justin Upton marches toward his 600th career hit while lugging 86 RBIs, a .296 batting average, and a tuba signed by John Philip Sousa.
Celebrating their ninth season of bone-jarring hits, the lady-led squads of the skater-run, nonprofit Tucson Roller Derby thrill crowds with supersonic skating, cringe-worthy spills, and multiplayer pileups. During each event, two 60-minute bouts pin rival troops against each other for full-contact, closely refereed matches set apart by halftime performances and redirection of confused zambonis. In a battle for home-team territory, three local packs, much like highly competitive circus clowns, seek to defend the circular combat zone, including the Furious Truckstop Waitresses, the Copper Queens, and 2010's crowd favorites, the Vice Squad. As an added bonus, this season marks the inaugural campaign of the league's second travel team, the Bandoleras, who debut on December 17.