It got a little louder than usual in McKale Center on Saturday when the Wildcats beat their long-time rival Arizona State, 73-58, completing their season sweep of the Sun Devils. However, the increase in volume wasn’t due to the fans excitement of seeing the Cats beat down their rivals, nor was it because it was senior night; as Arizona said goodbye to Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom. The real reason for all the ruckus was the retirement of Joe Cavaleri, also known as the “Ooh Aah Man”.
What began as a simple “Ooh aah, sock it to ’em, Wildcats” chant at a baseball game in 1979, gradually became one of the most storied traditions in Wildcat sports history. It has to be one of the weirdest traditions and arguably the most unique ritual sports has ever seen. Who would have known that a now, 61-year-old man stripping down one article of clothing at a time would get everyone going, chanting “U of A!”.
Some enjoy the Ooh Aah man because he is just another Tucsonan showing his dedicated passion for the Wildcats, others find humor in watching the opposing team in a complete daze during a timeout in the second half while this super-fan dramatically removes shirt after shirt, short after short and sock after sock, until the 14,000 plus fans are standing and screaming. Regardless, the Ooh Aah man has embedded a spot not only in Wildcats sports, but also in the hearts of many Tucsonans.
Sadly, the reason for his retirement is due to his health conditions. Cavaleri currently suffers from Parkinson’s disease and has also had his fair share of car wrecks which has forced him to use a cane.
The era of the Ooh Aah man pointing to each side of the stadium getting the respective sections chanting in harmony are now over. Despite that, Cavaleri will still attend games,just not as the famous Ooh Aah man.
However, before he called it quits, the University of Arizona paid tribute to Cavaleri by honoring him with a few things, beginning with a UA baseball jersey with the number 34 on the back, representing his first recognition as a super-fan. In addition, he was given other Wildcat apparel and will have a framed picture of him doing the famous chant hung in McKale Center.
Although the Ooh Aah man hung up all his layers of clothes for good, his presence in Arizona athletics will Bear Down forever.