McCain/Colangelo ‘team’ entertains, educates
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
A new comedy team debuted Friday night in the Student Union at Grand Canyon University. McCain and Colangelo won’t make anyone forget Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello — as if anyone born after 1980 even knows who that was — but their one-liners were exceeded only by their insights into Arizona sports.
The occasion was The Arizona Republic’s first foray into a venture aimed to bring together the biggest sports names for conversation before a live audience. The moderator was Republic columnist Dan Bickley, also host of a local sports talk show, and U.S. Sen. John McCain and Phoenix sports icon Jerry Colangelo provided the answers, complete with punchlines.
For example, McCain was talking about how much he’s opposed to television blackouts of games when Colangelo interjected, “I’m not an owner anymore, so I support you.”
Colangelo was making a list of good habits, in particular being a good listener, when McCain piped up with, “And if you don’t do all of those things, you’ll be a sportswriter.”
But McCain didn’t spare himself when he talked about his failed presidential runs. “Arizona might be the only state in the Union,” he said, “where mothers don’t tell their kids that someday they’ll grow up to be President.”
“John is very, very biting, and I love his sense of humor,” Bickley said. “Jerry is very, very regal, and he’s full of class. I like the shenanigans more than he does, but he tells great, great stories.”
Two years in the making
Those stories included how the pool at Chase Field came to be. Colangelo, who brought the Diamondbacks to Arizona, said his reaction was “Are you crazy?” when a designer first suggested putting a pool in the ballpark. But then Colangelo did an about-face when he was talking to a national reporter the next day — he boldly told the reporter that the pool was in the plans, and a day later he had received six calls from pool companies that wanted to underwrite it.
McCain told a story from his days as a prisoner of war in Vietnam that says a lot about American sports passion. When a new prisoner of war arrived in 1969, McCain said the first question everyone asked was whether the New York Jets had won the Super Bowl a few months earlier.
Bickley said the idea of these town hall-style sports events first was discussed by The Republic’s staff two years ago and came together in the last three weeks. He had no doubt about who would go first.
“I’ve got a really good relationship with Senator McCain, and I’ve got a really good relationship with Jerry. I thought to myself, if I could pair these two guys, that would be a really powerful way to kick off a series of events,” he said. “It was fabulous, as you could tell tonight. Just the credibility, the wisdom, everything they bring to the table — they’re ambassadors for Arizona.
“Not just because they’re Valley icons. They’re also pioneers. They’ve seen the growth of this market, particularly from a sports standpoint, from the very beginning. There are other Valley icons, but you’d be hard-pressed to find two more impactful guys than these two.”
Colangelo is making an impact in three big ways these days. He continues to be considerably involved at GCU, where he is a regular mentor for students in the Colangelo College of Business and is a fixture at basketball games, and continues in his role as director of USA Basketball. This year, he added a new one: chairman of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, which requires a lot of telecommunications from his Phoenix home and being in Philadelphia about four to five days a month.
He is particularly happy about the success of the GCU men’s basketball team, which has won 24 of 28 games in only its third year in NCAA Division I.
“I’m very proud of where the team is,” he said. “I thought we had a great shot to win 20. We’ve far exceeded that, and we’re going to win a few more games, hopefully. It’s been a great year.”
Bickley said of GCU’s ascension, “I think it’s amazing. I was here when they made the D-I announcement. I’ve seen this basketball team start to kind of crack the national conversation. … Dan Majerle and the Antelopes and the Havocs and the vibe in the Arena, it’s all working and people are starting to pay attention to it.”
McCain, like Colangelo, is a big fan of what GCU is doing both on and off the basketball court. He was in the second row close to the Lopes’ bench for Saturday’s game after meeting with the University’s executive team and with the GCU students who are interns in his office.
“Haven’t we got a gem here with Dan Majerle and the Lopes?” he asked the audience at Friday’s event. “I really appreciate the Havocs.” And that was before the Havocs displayed huge cutouts of McCain at Saturday’s game and the GCU dancers did a special number in his honor.
Bickley said the next event of the series likely will bring together the owners of the four major Phoenix pro teams (Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Suns and Coyotes).
“We’re open to a lot of ideas, and we’re open to a lot of diversity in trying to stage these kind of events,” he said. “You see it more and more now than ever before, and Jerry even pointed it out. The key to success, it’s all relational. It’s about relating to people, face to face.
“That’s why I think these events break through now more than in the past because people primarily communicate electronically now. We’ve gotten away from this as a standard kind of experience.”
They got back to it Friday night, and a good time was had by all. Especially McCain and Colangelo, who clearly enjoyed themselves. This is a comedy team that has its act together.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.