|All Points West: What? Fall sports already?|
|August 19, 2016 Frank Marquez|
This time of year, I’m sort of living in a lull, watching Major League Baseball hit a stretch that makes me think there might be too much baseball. I didn’t feel that way covering Gering’s Legion teams as they ended their seasons a few weeks ago. Youth baseball has this sort of authentic feel to it. Now it’s over. The 36ers packed up their bats and gloves after making it to the state tournament in Plattsmouth (a stone’s throw away from Omaha) only to bow out after two losses. About a week later, girls’ softball started workouts. As I write this, the Gering girls prepare for a tournament in Aurora, Nebraska, this weekend. If you have a few spare moments, and feel like a road trip, you might want to watch them in action. Having a winning season last year, things look promising.
The remainder of area schools reopened their doors this past week, and the green grass of football fields have been carefully manicured by groundskeepers, making them ready for the first scrimmages, and games that will be played under Friday night lights over the next several months in front of hundreds of parents, teachers, classmates and friends. Dust off your seat cushions and pom-poms, oh, and banners too. Cross country runners hit the tracks and roads huffing and puffing to build up endurance, hoping for a chance at a state title in October, about the same time Major League Baseball is winding down. Two teams (hopefully my Washington Nationals) will play for the 113th edition trophy. The Nationals, do indeed, have a viable opportunity. Having won more than 70 games, they’re in the midst of a four-game series against the Braves, and about eight games ahead of the second-place Florida Marlins in the NL East.
But wait, there’s high school girls’ golf and boys’ tennis – games referred to as small ball. The lesser known athletes in the high school hallways across America, they are in sports played in the shadow of football, nonetheless deserving of the same recognition for trying, and competing. Remember at this level, this is where the seeds of dreams for bigger and better are planted.
Erstwhile, on the world scene, the Olympic Games continue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the closing ceremonies scheduled for Sunday, August 21. I’m not sure why it seems anticlimactic watching U.S. swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky make fools of their competition. Don’t get me wrong. Phelps’ 23 golds, the most of any Olympic athlete, is nothing to smirk at, but it was to be expected, kind of. Prognosticators weren’t too sure about his age being a factor, but c’mon. He’s 31. Though, it was humorous to watch him help Ledecky arrange her medals for a Sports Illustrated photo shoot, being a been-there-done-that sort of guy. The same sort of feeling applied to watching the 4-foot-9 U.S. gymnast Simone Biles defy gravity, on her way to winning four golds and a bronze. Who would have thought she’d finish third on beam?
Then, how much can you really say about the men’s and women’s basketball teams? Could the men be their own worst enemy? As has been said about the world of sports, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. The original Dream Team, they are not. World competition has grown stronger (a lot of foreign players have joined the NBA ranks), but don’t expect any surprises. So far, both men and women are undefeated in group play.
Then there was the display of the true spirit of the games, when two runners in the women’s 5,000-meter foot race got tangled up about three laps from the finish. The collision involved U.S. runner Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin. After the mishap, the two struggled, D’Agostino more than Hamblin. Yet, the two athletes encouraged and helped each other to the finish line. After the race, the American runner was immediately carted off to a medical tent. After protests, both runners hopefully should appear in the August 19 final.
Not quite goose-bumps material, in me, hope grew, in the belief that sports could still offer something rich.
Therefore, I count the late summer lull officially over.
Not only will high school sports resume, in two short weeks, we will see Nebraska take on the Fresno State Bulldogs in the first football game of the Huskers’ season on September 3.
As I lean back in my office chair, for some reason, nostalgia pokes through. Citing the unpredictability of college football, there was one distinctive voice announcing the marquis games that most mature fans might remember, especially when he called the play-by-play in Nebraska’s tilts against fierce rival, the Oklahoma Sooners. Whoa, Nellie! That would be ABC sports’ Keith Jackson. He retired in 2006 in Georgia after a radio and TV career that began in 1952. In studying his career, I was surprised, but maybe not too surprised to find out that he was a Marine for four years. Perhaps, his military experience carried over into that energy he used in calling games in, not just football, but a lot of other sports. He brought excitement and originality to even mishaps as he raised his piercing voice into the microphone (you could tell it was him from the next cornfield over), “Fum-BLE!” and “Hold the phonnnnne!” after officials littered the field with yellow flags.
Yeah, remembering that, I’d have to say, the lull is definitely over.
Keith would have shaken us all awake: “Thundering across the plains, here come the Nebraska Cornhuskers!”