"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, August 14, 2015

3 Tiger football games before school starts?

We normally don't have to consult the August page of the school calendar a whole lot. Usually we don't think much about school until the Donnelly Threshing Bee. I haven't been to the Threshing Bee since I left the Morris newspaper, sorry. When I look back, I enjoy remembering the Upper Mississippi Bluegrass Band at the Bee.
The August page of the Morris Area school calendar has a surprise. I wonder if the local corporate media will highlight this enough. I'd need quite a reminder to anticipate a football game so early. On the 22nd? Really? The early date probably pushed practices earlier. I'm used to seeing the early-bird football practices at the time of the county fair. I associate the football opener with Labor Day weekend.
This year I'm told there are three Tiger football games before the first day of school. I normally expect tennis to have such an early-bird start, not football. I hope we haven't had a problem with oppressive heat for practices. Perhaps pre-season practice has been limited? Fine, but the team would want to be optimally prepared in order to win.
High school football is apparently starting early everywhere, so as to accommodate the playoffs before winter weather sets in. The old Metrodome is gone. My, what a run our Dome had for accommodating the high school playoffs. What memories are tucked away from that. I especially remember the Chokio-Alberta Spartans carving out memories there. I remember getting up at an ungodly hour to head over to The Old Lumber Yard (or whatever name it had at the time) to board the bus. Coach Neal Hofland was in the clover for those years.
I also remember making the trip (once) for the Morris Area High School team. Morris Area had an entertaining type of passing game, rather unusual at the time in prep football. We had a quarterback throwing darts, as it were. But we couldn't beat Breckenridge in Prep Bowl. Breckenridge must have had awesome personnel to beat us. Is it true the Tigers had pizza and pop the night before the game?
Fast-forward to 2015. There's no Dome, so high school football has been adjusted to try to make the playoffs more practical in the face of weather. Of course, the playoffs steadily reduce the number of teams in action.
Meanwhile, at the start of the season when all teams are playing, we're paying a price, it seems, in two respects. First off, mid-August weather would appear not to be conducive to football. And second, will it be hard to get fan support and numbers through the turnstiles? We aren't programmed to deal with high school football so early. We associate that with when school is on. Our thoughts turn to such things roughly at the time of Labor Day weekend.
Labor Day has become kind of a mystifying holiday. It's not held in reverence. We pay lip service only - no formal observance. You might say it's just another day when the mail doesn't get delivered. I'm stealing these words, actually: they were spoken by the late Barry Goldwater when he opposed the Martin Luther King holiday.
My school calendar says the first Tiger football game is on Saturday, Aug. 22. Saturday? We're normally attuned to Friday. If I were still with the Morris newspaper, I'd really accentuate the football opener date and time with a page 1B feature. I would have sat down with coach Jerry Witt by now over a generous amount of coffee. But of course Witt has moved on, as has yours truly.
Speaking of moving on, is Ken Gagner no longer with us? I'm shocked if that's true. I guess we live in a mobile society. Maybe Ken is trying to go from "Gags to riches" (rimshot). Maybe he wants to establish himself in a school district that hasn't been hurt by scandal in recent years. One online journalist refers to "your dump of a school." Well, that's rather excessive. Morris is still trying to execute a smooth landing from all that.
We now have Mr. Bill Kehoe at the helm as high school principal. He's a former C-A Spartan under coach Hofland. I'm sure he was on one of those state champion rosters. I have a problem of still thinking of him as a kid. I remember watching this young man playing football up north in Stephen MN.
How will football attendance be affected by the early start? The Tigers will host the West Central Area Knights on August 22. Remember the old days of the Hoffman Bearcats? I was a "ringer" with the Kensington pep band when I was in high school. Walt Sarlette directed the band. Del Sarlette was another ringer. We joined a young man named Darcy in the trumpet section. Darcy Rau? My memory is pretty reliable, helped no doubt by never having played football.
As I get older I'm increasingly relieved I did not play football, despite Craig Birch's recruiting efforts. Fact is, I have never been attuned to playing team sports. I remember taking a team handball class at St. Cloud State University. We "chose up sides" (yuk). Early-on I was chosen early, my classmates thinking I had physical attributes. They learned as time went on. I was eventually chosen toward the end.
It is a total blessing I never played football. Will there be a swing toward lower numbers, what with all the alarming revelations coming out about the health effects of the sport? My theory is this: there will at least be isolated communities, communities where soccer is well-established as an option, where football really will decline, perhaps substantially. Mark my words. But it will not happen everywhere. A slow process will kick in. More and more communities will have their male youth get sensible and decide to preserve their future health.
Of course, we have school leaders who should be taking the lead in the process. I once shared concern with Scott Monson. He responded by simply saying "we're following all protocols." In other words, he wasn't going to be a leader in trying to steer boys away from football.
We couldn't make all places smoke-free right away. It was a dragged-out process. We'll see something similar in Motown. If parents love their sons and truly care about them, they will expedite things and steer them to more productive activities. It wouldn't be hard finding more constructive activities than running and trying to knock some poor opponent from another town on his rear end. Someday we'll be perplexed as we look back, just as it's hard to envision a restaurant full of cigarette smoke today. In the scheme of things, it wasn't long ago.
It wasn't that long ago, in the scheme of things, when people drove drunk without much concern. Ever spend time at a Shriners convention?
The Tigers will play their game 2 on Friday, Aug. 28, at ACGC. And their game 3 presents itself on September 4: home against Benson. Can we get in the habit of accepting so much important extracurricular stuff before school starts? Hard to say. I remember the days when we had fan buses to out of town football games. Don Grossman would be among the chipper drivers. I think fan buses are no more. So, time moves on.
Does Morris have a decent soccer option for boys?
Remember, high school football players can undergo significant brain changes after only a single season, even if they don't get a concussion, Wake Forest University researchers have found. But I don't have to worry - I never played football. Sorry Mr. Birch.
Addendum: Is Labor Day supposed to honor all workers or the labor union movement specifically? Time has not been kind to unions, who now find that their last bastion is the public sector. (Always be careful to type "public"and not "pubic.") Unions seem to grate on the populace nowadays. In these recent incidents of police shootings and brutality that appear unreasonable, we see the police unions in a knee-jerk manner support the officers. It seems a departure from reason and reality. It's just "taking care of our own." If the Republican Party stays strong, look for unions to be on the ropes even more. Fox News would seem to have a philosophy of anti-union, but when it comes to police unions, there appears an exception. That's because Fox is "law and order." I'd say it's disingenuous.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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