Stanford Cardinal vs. Arizona State Sun Devils, 10/8/2021, 7:35pm
Arizona State 28 – Stanford 10, Attendance: 46,192
Weather: Cloudy, 86; Ticket: Free, via Rocky, Face: $70 Parking: $40
The Kindness of Others by Tree
Arizona State University is in Tempe, a city just east of Phoenix. Getting there is very simple. We flew into Phoenix and made the quick drive over. Tempe is also connected to Phoenix via light rail so that is another option. We stayed in Tempe, right on the edge of campus right next to the stadium. It was the most convenient location I have ever stayed in for a game. It was literally a five-minute walk from the hotel to the garage we tailgated at (more on that later). There were plenty of bars and restaurants close by. We also noted student dorms in the same tight area. Perhaps built with safety in mind, given ASU’s party school reputation. With a light rail stop right at the stadium, staying downtown is also an option. Scottsdale is another, particularly if you want to hang out with a more “mature” crowd. We were impressed with Phoenix art museum but found the downtown to be dead on a Saturday. I have been to Scottsdale and would say that is the better alternative. The nice thing about the Phoenix area, though, is that there are plenty of other things to do. Lots of local hiking and the Sedona and/or the Grand Canyon are an easy car drive away. Phoenix also has all the requisite professional sport teams and other big city diversions.
The Tempe tailgating scene was a bit tepid. The first group I talked to were not a lot of fun. This second group was good, but the third group was great. We were in the top floor of a parking garage where season ticket holders tailgate, but it also allows cash parking for $40. I was surprised how empty the lot was but was told that was usually the case for a Friday night game. It was not what I was expecting or used to. If you were to go to a game anywhere other than in the West, classes would be cancelled, and folks would take the afternoon off for the game. The garage is a nice enough spot with some shade, and I love the cash option. The overall vibe was a little disappointing. The university also does some street closures with food trucks, games, etc. It didn’t look too bad, but we only gave it a quick glance since we had a tailgate to join.
Arizona State plays in Sun Devil Stadium which seats about 57,000. It used to be much bigger, but they have wisely reduced the size of the stadium to better fit the attendance. Nothing worse than a seeing a game in a half empty stadium. There’s a great big video board at the north end zone and two smaller ones on the opposite end. Our seats were at the top of the lower level at just about the goal line. They were free for us, but the aftermarket prices seemed to start at around $25. The student section was to our right in the endzone, and they were loud. While the upper deck was sparsely populated, it must have been due to it being Friday night and not the quality of the seats. With a stadium that size, all the seats would be decent ones. We were having so much fun at the tailgate that we missed Sparky’s entrance on the field. I will say the security screening was a little lax. Actually, it was a lot laxed given that the crew we were with managed to sneak in about a dozen beers. The concessions also sold beer along with standard stadium fare.
There were not many notable traditions at ASU. Sparky does make a grand entrance throwing the fork into the middle of the field with ensuing fireworks. There was also a military fly-over. Inside, the fans make a forks up signal by holding down their ring finger. The also shake their keys on third downs. The other, ahem, tradition at ASU is to have a very attractive student body. I can honestly say I didn’t notice a difference from any other college crowd in that instance. Of course, my wife was with me, so I was not exactly looking either. The marching band was decent. In general, the environment was a good one, with loud but friendly fans.
ASU came into the game on a roll and Sparky stayed hot against Stanford. They scored early on a long run in the first quarter, but Stanford answered with a long drive. That was about all the Cardinal would do on this night. None of the Sun Devil running backs went over a hundred yards, but the team had over 250 total yards rushing. It was not just dominant, but also pretty with some nice jump cuts and stutter steps by the running backs. ASU scored two more touchdowns and cruised to the win in the second half. The only unit that may have played better was the ASU secondary. They had three interceptions off tipped balls. The win left them 6 -1 and number 18 ranking. They would promptly go to Utah the next week and lose. As noted by one lifelong ASU, the Sun Devils inevitably find a way to lose games they should not. It certainly explains why they have never won a national championship.
This game was part of a double header weekend where we also picked up Arizona on Saturday. The rivalry between the Wildcats and Sun Devils is a good one based on the comments we heard from several fans. “No Pity for the Kitty” as they like to say. Both teams have an “A” mountain, although the University of Arizona’s is claimed as the first. I walked/hiked up it on Saturday morning to get a great view of greater Phoenix. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a local tailgate and it did not disappoint with plenty of food and drink, not to mention a very gregarious host. Rocky is a transplant New Yorker and we connected immediately. Anybody who can call out one of the hipsters in his tribe with a cheer of “Where is Man Bun? Clap-clap-clap-clap-clap. Where is Man Bun” is all right with me. I’d say my assessment of the ASU experience is the same. While it doesn’t have the gravitas of some of the other more successful and established programs, it is still a good time. I would not say that ASU makes the must-see list. The Grand Canyon, on the other hand, does. So why wouldn’t you combine the two in a visit. The greater Phoenix area is easy to get around and the Grand Canyon is pleasant drive. The ASU game day experience is affordable, accessible, and enjoyable. You might as well combine the two for a great long weekend.