Thursday, March 11, 2010

Here's to the Heroes

Basketball season--for our local squads, at least--has pretty much rolled (bounced?) to an end. It’s been a long year in some ways, and I suppose it’s over a little too quickly in others. We saw both teams and individuals from our coverage area do some impressive things this season, with conference-leading performances, impressive post-season runs and all-conference and all-state accolades still rolling in.
It’s hard to call a kid a hero, though, despite the successes they’ve gathered. It’s not that they don’t sometimes do heroic things, but just that they’ve got so much more to accomplish in their lives. But, for those of us who travel night after night and day after day to watch them, it’s hard not to simply say, “wow,” once in awhile, no matter what sport is being played.
But, it’s also important to remember that it’s not just the high-scoring heroes that deserve our praise. For every kid who makes the sports-page headlines, there are so many others who work just as hard to make it all happen. I’m talking about the bench-sitters, the role-players and all the others who do what they do for the love of a team, a school and a sport. The kids who show up and stick it out all season long; who play their biggest games in practice so that their team can succeed. The kids whose only moments to shine in front of parents, friends, fans and strangers might be a couple of minutes of playing time at the end of a game that’s already decided.
I’ve never talked to a coach or a star player who hasn’t admired the effort, passion and heart those less-noticed performers put forth. They know, as we all should, that those kids are the real heroes, without a doubt.

• Speaking of heroes, two hometown basketball players have made it to state-level competition in the COUNTRY Financial Three-Point Showdown. For those of you who haven’t seen the shootout in action in regional and sectional games, it’s the ultimate high-pressure shooting situation, so kudos go to Galva’s Brady Landis and Ridgewood’s Brian Norberg.

•Speaking of sports, we’re in that challenging time of year when track, baseball and softball teams are simply dying for a little warm, dry weather.
Sportswriters, too.
I know I’ve got a stubborn streak that makes me resist wearing a parka and gloves to witness a spring sport, even if that’s the only sensible way to go. So, instead, I sneak layers upon layers in an effort to stay warm, while trying to look like I’m dressed for the first tee at Pebble Beach or a lazy, barefoot walk down a Carolina seashore.
Hope springs eternal.

•Speaking of Carolina, we’re looking forward to visits with both of our sons and families. First, Colin and clan will make a spring-break trek to Galva from the great plains of Fargo, looking, I’m sure, for a balmy break from their second season in that frigid outpost. Then, my co-pilot and I will drive the 1,000+ miles to North Carolina for a week-before-Easter visit with son Patrick and his family. We haven’t decided whether we’ll take the northern route, which travels through Indiana and Ohio and into West Virginia before crossing the mountains near Mount Airy (hometown of Andy Griffith and inspiration for the TV-town of Mayberry) or via the majestic Cumberland Gap; or the southern track, which crosses the Great Smoky Mountains near Knoxville into Asheville. I’m sorta leaning towards the latter, as early spring is a time when the rolling hills of Kentucky and Tennessee burst forth with a soft-green promise of the sweet growth and renewal that’s surely on its way this time of year.
While anytime is a good time to go see grandchildren, we’re hoping for a warm reception from the weatherman that will allow some time walking the beach and exploring the lighthouse-laden Carolina coast. I’m also hoping to see Patrick in action in his first year as a softball coach. He’s in his fourth year of teaching and coaching, but has always headed up boys’ sports, like football, basketball and baseball, until now. It’s a strong program, with a varsity team that was ranked No. 1 in the state coming into the season. I just hope Paddy, who was a 4-year starter on the mound for Knox College, has, by now, figured out a couple of essential differences in the pitching part of the girls’ game:
They throw hard.
They throw underhand.

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