All Points West: What’s your sports fantasy?
     2015-08-27      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
Part of the joy of being a sports reporter is getting to go to all the games for free. Well, not really. Part of the price of admission is banging out a colorful story to go along with some good action shots. There’s an even better, true reward for retelling human drama. It becomes a part of history, and filed away, labeled as “remember when,” and “those were the glory days.”

I tend to agree with baseball icon Yogi Berra when he said “youth is wasted on the young.”

They don’t know it yet, but for a lot of our local star athletes, this may be their moment in the sun, their 15 minutes of fame – scoring a TD in front of the home crowd setting new decibel records for noise level, or better yet, having the season add up to mostly wins, and defending your reputation in the state playoffs.

Last Friday night gave us a taste of what’s to come. Both Scottsbluff and Gering football teams went live – full speed contact holding nothing back. My brothers and I were a lot like the players taking that first jarring hit in which you taste blood, many starting off their sporting lives in backyards and sandlots.

So, my guess? After two weeks in practice, the players are sick and tired of seeing each across the line of scrimmage. At some point, they’re going to want to see what they’re made of. Maybe taking on the first opponent a few miles down the road will do the trick.

So, how does it start? How do you get there? How do you create sports genius? There’s a scene in “Jerry McGuire” that hints at chance, destiny or fate having a say. Forget that. Let’s say it has more to do with nature (genetics) and nurture (helpful parents and coaches). “Like popcorn. Some pop. Some don’t.”

My dad hung a saying on the wall facing the front entrance in our house. If you’d ever been to our humble abode, it was the first thing you saw, that, and the lack of furniture, because most of was broken from making our living room into part football field, and part wrestling mat. It was a framed poster with some skinny track dude clearing a high hurdle, a forbearer to today’s Facebook memes, which read: “Overcoming obstacles one step at a time.”

I wouldn’t say it was terribly motivational, but it stuck in my head, like some of the things coaches say in their rah-rah speeches before the big game or the big match. “This is your day, son. This is your moment. You’ll never be here again, so make it count.”

With six boys in our family, it was hard to avoid participating in something that involved carrying or bouncing a ball, and hitting somebody, or the ground. Beyond competing in football and wrestling, I also played hard-knock pickup basketball games with my brothers, friends and sometimes fierce acquaintances in California. This wasn’t a YMCA hoops leagues. This was pick yourself up off the concrete and call your own fouls. And, for those of you who think surfing’s a non-contact sport, think again. Although, I learned to longboard late in life. If you ever try it, you’ll find it’s a sport better suited for youths, as Berra would put it. Though, I think Kelly Slater might make a good case against me. I did see a few 60-somethings out on the waves, but very few.

This is what happens when you don’t fulfill your childhood fantasies of making it to the pros. You find other ways to fuel your competitive spirit, by getting involved in the less risky non-contact individual sports such as running and cycling, or by religiously watching or reading about sports contests, vicariously living through the Huskers and Broncos, as I do.

“This year, we’re going to (fill in appropriate goal here),” say coaches all across this great land. It’s so ingrained in the rites of passage for all athletes. You get better every year. Then, you grow older. My dad would continually bombard our psyches with his subliminal messages: What greatness will come from your day, your season, your year? As for the star athletes these days, their careers, as they advance, will fall under a microscope. You’ll always run into somebody who’s bigger, stronger, faster, but not impossible to overcome. Fleetingly, the remember-when-days, like sparklers on the Fourth of July, will fizzle, and fall to the ground.

Don’t worry. The flipside of being on the field isn’t so bad.
Then, the practicalities of life take over. Instead of small goals like getting through up-downs near the end of practice without upchucking. You shift your focus to bigger goals like getting a job. Then, what follows, years later is choosing the right size big screen when you can’t make it to the games in person. On top of it, the drama on the field becomes the drama off the field.

Take for example, the challenge of trying to explain my obsession, nay my addiction, to my significant other. What does it mean to the guy whose girlfriend, fiancé or wife, doesn’t regularly watch sports, and channel surfs right past Fox Sports and ESPN? It means, Lucy, you got a whole lot of “splaining” to do. If your wife wears your favorite team’s jersey, I’m happy for you.

Well, all I can tell you is fall season is a little like Christmas. All that I want this year? Dear Santa: Let the Bulldogs have a winning season. Let the Huskers win a division title, and let the Broncos win the Super Bowl. Realistic enough? Oh yeah, let my significant other understand some aspect of my addiction.

It’s a new season baby! And in the immortal words of ESPN analyst Chris Berman, we “could go all the way.” No, it’s not what you’re thinking.

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