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Rivalry week divides homes all over Arizona

“Seems like in this state, you’re either a Sun Devil
or a Wildcat.” – ASU head coach Dennis Erickson

My “relationship” with Arizona State University began in
1978. Living in New York, my father had decided he’d had
enough of life as a New York City police officer, and once
he was promoted to captain, he’d retire and move his
family across the country for a new start. Destination:
Arizona.

My older sister, Lauren, had decided also to attend
college at ASU, so she actually made the cross-country
trek before the rest of us.

I was a seven-year-old sports nut who knew about
defensive end Al Harris of the Sun Devils. Being only a
lad, I didn’t realize the vastness of the ASU campus, so I
presented an assignment for my sister when she got to
Tempe: get me Al Harris’ autograph.

When a manila envelope containing two signed black-and-
white
glossies of Outland Trophy candidate Al Harris a few
months later, I was hooked.

Our house was a Sun Devil one for the next several years,
until my youngest sister Janine (who is 3 years older than
me) announced to my parents that she wanted to move away
from home for school, and she was headed to Tucson to
attend [gasp!] the University of Arizona.

Welcome to a house divided, Marotta family. Some of the
arguments my sister and I engaged in through the years
were epic, especially when we were both in college–her in
Tucson and me in Tempe. Some of them still exist, as we
each take almost as much pleasure in a loss for our rival
than a win for our own team.

There are thousands of people in the state of Arizona that
find their homes divided by this rivalry, making this week
and interesting, fun, and in some cases, tense.

Rob Reyes, 1998 ASU engineering graduate who lives in the
Bay Area, has a unique perspective of the rivalry. He’s
been on both sides of it. Reyes grew up in Tucson, and
his parents were both avid Wildcats fans and tailgaters.

“I didn’t know any better,” Reyes said about his Wildcat
fandom. “The whole family was around U of A, and I got a
regents’ scholarship to ASU and U of A, and for some
reason I picked U of A.”

Reyes attended school in the Old Pueblo for a year and a
half before deciding to change his collegiate address to
Tempe.

On the hatred scale, Reyes says since he was once a fan of
them, it’s hard to despise the Wildcats–for most of the
year, that is. “Come rivalry week, I detest everything
about them.
I hate that red. I hate that blue. I mean, I don’t even
wear my blue suit during rivalry week,” he said.

With the hate that exists between the two institutions,
surely a Sun Devil couldn’t marry a Wildcat, right?

Wrong.

Zack (2003 Kinesiology graduate from ASU) and Emily (2002
Journalism graduate from U of A) tied the knot about six
years ago, and they claim the rivalry has never
really been an issue in their relationship.

“Fortunately, the rivalry has always been a friendly one,”
Emily said. “Though, I think my grandpa (one of the
biggest Wildcats I’ve ever known) had some angst when he
found out that I was marrying a Sun Devil.”

Friendliness was put on hold for a few moments as they
each took a shot at the other insitution to get
into the Territorial Cup spirit.

“ASU’s colors are hideous, its mascot is scary and its
fans are belligerent,” Emily said.

Zack countered with “UA’s colors are boring, its mascot is
juvenile and its fans are delusional.”

I think that qualifies as a fight–or at least a minor
skirmish.

OK, so what if your grandfather is a legendary figure in
one school’s history? Certainly you’d side with grandpa,
right? Maybe not.

The late Dan Devine coached the Sun Devils from 1955 to
1957, and guided them to a sterling 27-3-1 record.

But two of Devine’s grandchildren didn’t follow in the
footsteps of the family, and instead attended U of A.

Kyle Avery is Devine’s grandson, and is currently a
sophomore at the University of Arizona. Avery’s older
sister started the trend in heading down to Tucson to
further their education, and he followed the lead.

“As you would expect my parents were taken aback by the
both of us having interest in this school, but once we
went through the whole college process, they slowly, but
surely, warmed up to it,” he said. “I decided in early
March of my senior year (2010) that I would be attending
the University of Arizona, but my whole life I never
really envisioned myself going there, so it did feel
pretty strange declaring my allegiance to my family’s
rival school.”

Avery will be torn on Territorial Cup Saturday, because
the maroon and gold is still in his blood despite where he
attends college.

“I really do not hate ASU and I am still a die-hard for
them, so I have to keep it a secret from my U of A buddies
since they would probably lay the smackdown on me for
still rooting for them,” Avery said, before adding that
he’d proudly be wearing his Zona Zoo shirt into the loge
section, where his parents have had season tickets for
almost 30 years.

What do you do when you’re caught in the middle of the
rivalry with a mom who’s a Wildcat fanatic, and dad who
bleeds maroon and gold?

I didn’t have to go far to find that answer; I asked my
own 15-year-old son Branden, because this is the situation
he deals with every November. In his experience with this
venomous in-state rivalry, he’s become pretty adept at
playing the role of Switzerland–completely neutral.

“Most of the time I cheer for both teams, but at some
point, I’ll choose one of them, and that’s where I’ll go
to college,” he said.

That got Dad curious. So I asked him if he had to pick
right now, where would it be? “I really don’t know,” he
answered. Damn.

I regrouped. I asked him what he thinks will happen on
Saturday.

“ASU is more than likely going to win,” he said.

Yes! A minor victory. But in this rivalry, you’ll take
any victory you can get.