Sun City Oro Valley Pickleball

When I was growing up in The Projects in Southern California, living in the other apartment of our duplex was my friend, Bobby Chacon. He and I played multiple sports together, but when he got out of high school, he became a professional boxer. He was also going to college at the time, so they billed him as “Schoolboy Bobby Chacon.” 

He got really good really fast and moved up the ranks. He eventually won World championships in two different weight divisions (eight years apart), but his life was just one tragedy after another. You can Google him if you have the stomach for heartbreak. It’s been five years since he died and I miss him. I went to see him in his later years, but his pugilistic dementia was so bad (and I had grown fat), he didn’t recognize me. He barely knew who he was. 

Early in his career, I went to see him at the Olympic Auditorium in downtown L.A. As I was watching the fight, a hockey game broke out.

That’s my segue to tell you that I’m not the biggest fan of hockey. I have never understood why people fight in a game where it’s perfectly legal to slam into your opponent as hard as you can. You almost never see fights in football because football players know that, no matter how mad they are, they can always just hit the guy on the next play. Not all pro hockey players have figured that out.

When my daughter was getting her Master’s in Engineering at Cornell, she fell in love with college hockey, a super-fast game in which there are almost no fights. Maybe it has something to do with their being in college. For several years (but not last year), my daughter and son would spend Thanksgiving in New York City, going to the Parade on Thursday, doing insane Black Friday shopping at Macy’s and Bloomingdales in Manhattan on Friday and then watching Cornell play hockey in Madison Square Garden on Saturday. It’s a different opponent every year, but it’s always her beloved Cornell Big Red (and it’s always a sellout crowd).

One other thing that bothers me about hockey is that I don’t think that any human being has ever actually seen a goal scored. We watch as they swing at the puck and then sometimes a light goes on and all of the players on one team raise their sticks, but who knows what really happened? You have to wait until you get home and hope they show the highlights in slow motion on “SportsCenter.”

Having said all that, I think it’s time to give the Tucson Roadrunners a try. Longtime Tucson sports fans can count on multiple hands the number of fly-by-night sports franchises that have come through here, but this obviously isn’t one of them. This will be the third season of (Arizona Coyotes-affiliated) Roadrunner hockey, but not the last.

The season opens on Friday at the Stockton Heat. The Roadrunners return home for games with the Texas Stars on October 23 and 24. When they get into the Tucson Convention Center, they will have a new set of announcers ready to raise the excitement level to Ridiculous. 

The Roadrunners will introduce Kim Cota-Robles as their new Public Address announcer. She will be the first full-time female PA announcer in all of professional hockey. (Won’t it be great when we finally run out of firsts for women?) Joining her will be Channel 4 Sports Guy, Paul Cicala. Paul will probably be the most enthusiastic person at his own funeral. What he will do in a hockey arena is scary to contemplate.

KFMA morning deejay Beef Vegan and KOLD-TV weekend reporter Yasmine Lopez will serve as in-game hosts.

Also this weekend will be the Picklin’ For a Cure Pickleball Tournament at Kino Sports Center. The tournament will bring together many of the top pickleball players from around the Southwest and will also serve as a fundraiser to fight two diseases—Lewy Body Dementia and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome. 

The tournament will run Friday through Sunday with Women’s Doubles on Friday, Mixed Doubles on Saturday, and Men’s Doubles on Sunday, with Age Group play each day. The home page for the tournament says that players must be at least eight years old by October 15th to be eligible.

Local player Tony Abram, who won a State championship playing with Mark Hardy (J.J.’s dad) will be teaming up with Devin Crowley on Sunday. Saturday, he will be partnering with Sahuaro High grad Taylor Hughes, who was part of the 2018 National Championship golf team while playing collegiately at Claremont-McKenna. 

Temperatures are supposed to be in the low-80s, but since the sport is so new, no one is quite sure what perfect pickleball weather is.

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