As I write this...it is Halloween-- trick or treating evening... otherwise known as the holiday that keeps dentists in business. It has not been a "Thriller" of a football season for Knox County teams, but basketball is not far behind. But in honor of Michael Jackson's top selling of all time ode to Halloween... I will use some MJ titles to give some random thoughts...
"Remember the Time"... The last time the Boston Red Sox won a World Series at Fenway Park was in 1918. Babe Ruth was pitching for the Sox in the "dead ball" era when they won that title. The Black Sox scandal was a year away, and Fenway Park was only six years old... not a gracefully aging 101 as it is now.
"Don't Stop Til You Get Enough"-- That is the Colts' mantra. They have created quite the resume this year, with wins over the Seahawks, Broncos, and 49ers, among others. They get into NFC South territory this Sunday, when the Houston Texans are on the menu. The Colts hope a lot of skill... and a little Luck... will lead to victory...
"Off the Wall"-- My psyche. The teams I broadcast it seems get the worst tournament draw luck...
"P.Y.T."-- Girls' sports across the area. A good year for many teams-- the North Knox volleyballers win their first title since 2000; another great year for Rivet girls' golf; and back to volleyball, good years (again) for Loogootee and Barr-Reeve...
"Thriller"-- The North Knox-Perry Central game last Friday at NKHS. The Warriors lost the game-- but it was a classic... a close game between two high quality teams. Like the team I broadcast, I don't like going out in the first round, but the game lived up to expectations-- and exceeded them.
"Dangerous"-- all four Knox County basketball teams look to be decently strong this year. This could be a great basketball season this year...
Hope is the most fulsome diet any man can have. This week, football teams are full of hope-- but for roughly half of all IHSAA teams in six classes, hope will be dashed, and it will be time to move indoors for basketball season.
Some teams probably don't have a lot of hope this Friday night. Not many people are expecting Class A Number 1 Linton to lose at Dugger this Friday night. Other seemingly lopsided matchups include one-win Washington versus undefeated Brownstown Central, and North Daviess versus Springs Valley. The Cougars put up 60 points in a victory over the Blackhawks the week before.
Let's look over this Friday's games. Vincennes Lincoln at 2-6 traveling to Gibson Southern. GS won the PAC title 31-21over Southridge at Huntingburg; LHS lost at Princeton last Friday. Sad to say, the prognosis isn't good for this Alice team.
North Knox at home versus Perry Central. The first time these two have played; however, if this North Knox team is to win, they have to reverse recent performances. The last 3 years, they have lost their last 3 games of the regular season, and lost their tournament opener the last two. The Wariors lost to Linton a year ago, and were upset by Eastern Greene at home the year before that. The question here is-- can this team recover from a bad, bad loss to winless Washington last Friday? Which is the REAL North Knox-- the team that played relatively well the first 8 weeks, or the one that laid a golden egg against Washington at home? Perry Central is 7-2, but strength of schedule is a problem for the Commodores. North Knox is optimistic-- and if they need any prodding, if they win Friday, they have two probable rematches-- in tournament week 2 versus North Daviess, and if they make it that far, in a Week 3 probable matchup against Linton. But to get there, they have to overcome their recent late-season history of losses. It hasn't been pretty for the Warriors late in the season over the last several years-- but one game can turn the tide. We will see if it happens on Friday.
Hope is the most fulsome diet for a team. It is up to them whether or not hope ends by 11 pm Friday night.
The English translation of the headline is "Thank you very much, United States!" That is what the Mexican national soccer-- excuse me, futbol-- team is saying today. In an improbable reversal of fortune, two American goals within the last 3 minutes turned a 2-1 Panama lead into a 3-2 American victory-- in Panama City, no less. Within 3 minutes, Panama's home support went from "We're in the playoff for a spot" to "we're out of the World Cup."
Imagine in basketball that you are up by 5 points with 37 seconds left in overtime, and instead of advancing, you are defeated. That happened-- look up North Knox's girls semistate game vs. Heritage Christian in 2004. This American goal blitz is similar to that disappointing result. You go from preparing to go to Indianapolis to elimination from tournament competition. Panama is feeling that same shock, disappointment, and bewilderment-- only on a national scale. By contrast, a very sub-par (for them) Mexico heads to a playoff with New Zealand for a World Cup spot. Mexico goes into the playoff off a loss to Costa Rica last night-- a team, like the U-S, who already had a World Cup berth sewed up. Oh by the way, the third auto qualifier was Honduras.
Mexico is in, Panama is out-- all in a matter of two goals, and around 3 minutes. The Mexicans may forget this generosity later, but for now, Mexico is telling the gringos-- "Mucho Gracias!" However, there is stil work to do, but Mexico now has a chance to do it-- a chance they didn't have, except for 3 minutes of American brilliance. Mucho Gracias, indeed.
The late Jack Buck had seen it all and done it all... Super Bowls, top-shelf baseball, even hockey- yes, he sat in with another announcing legend, in the late St. Louis Blues announcer Dan Kelly, a couple of games. He started his career in an outdoor booth at St. Louis Sportsman's Park with Harry Caray (both shirtless-- let a broadcaster TRY to get away with THAT today...), and ended up calling Cardinal games to the day he died. He made a great call on Ozzie Smith's home run... "Go crazy folks, go crazy!" But the greatest call Jack Buck had was not in a game with his beloved Cardinals; instead, it came 25 years ago today--in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
To set the stage, the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the big, bad, Bash Brother Oakland A's. The A's were the newest expected dynasty to hit the stage; but it wouldn't be Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire dominating this stage. it would be injured superstar Kirk Gibson. Gibson could barely walk, but as he showed, he could hit.
Gibson would listen to a scouting report on Dennis Eckersley. Remember, in 1989 Eckersley was a man who was Mariano Rivera before Mariano Rivera. He was "the Sandman" well before Mariano and Metallica became a word-association pair. However, Eckersley had a habit of throwing a backdoor slider on 3-2 counts. Gibson remembered that, and took one good swing. The swing sent a home run ball soaring into the Chavez Ravine night, and the Dodgers won the game, 5 to 4... and in Jack Buck's greatest ever call, he said in exasperation.... "I don't believe...what I just SAW!!" Neither did we. As network commentator-- and longtime Dodger broadcaster-- Vin Scully commented, "The only question now is can (Gibson) make it around the bases unassisted!" It was unreal-- and surreal, and I missed it. I was delivering a pizza when the home run happened. I was listening to the game on the radio, and missed it. But many of you did not miss it that fateful Saturday night...when Kirk Gibson moved from star to superstar-- and the baseball world could not believe what it just saw-- and still can't believe it, 25 years later.
The dream of many people is winning the lottery. The dreamers who continue to buy lottery tickets see those ping-pong balls dropping into place in Indianapolis as a harbinger of a lifestyle they never dreamed before.
However, another group of dreamers were watching another group of ping-pong balls drop in Indianapolis Sunday, as their football seasons hung in the balance with the results of that football lottery. In Knox County, the balls provided a mixed result.
Lincoln may have had the biggest disappointment. No one in Sectional 32 wanted Gibson Southern... but L-H-S got them-- and at Fort Branch, no less. The Titans are the real thing this year, and may be in place to win a state title. Lincoln knows the work it has before them now, and it will be an improbable task. But, as we know through history, you count out the Alices at your own peril.
In the northern part of the county, the North Knox Warriors also drew a pretty tough matchup in Sectional 48. The good news? Linton is on the other side, as they wanted. The bad news: They drew wnat may be the Number 2 team in the sectional, in 6-2 Perry Central. North Knox is a hard-luck 4-4...with 3 of those losses by less than 10 points. Perry Central's schedule isn't a world-beater either... and North Knox is playing at home against an opponent with a 3-hour plus bus ride to play. From the surface, this game is close to dead even. The one intangible-- North Knox has STILL to beat a team either of equal or greater ability. Does it happen in 2 weeks? If they can pull it off at home, a possible rematch with North Daviess looms. After last Friday's thriller at Cougar Valley, it may be a motivation of its own.
Either way, sectional football begins on Friday, October 25th. Let the games-- and the speculation-- begin...
A line from the poem "Flanders Fields" keeps running through my mind. "From trembling hands to you we throw... the torch. Be it yours to hold it high." The poem was designed as a tribute to soldiers in France in World War One; it is also featured in the locker room of the Monreal Canadiens hockey club. In the Montreal case, the line is accompanied by a chronological line of all the great faces and names that have graced the club from its start in the early 1900's to today.
Vincennes Lincoln High School is no different. Homecoming was held in Vincennes last weekend-- and as anyone knows, homecoming in Vincennes is more important, more intense, and more well-attended than just about any other homecoming in Indiana. It also marked the final walk-through for the former Vincennes Lincoln High School, and Clark Middle School, in downtown Vincennes. Future development will renovate the former Administration building, and raze the former Clark Middle School.
I was part of that walk-through... and the green ghosts were everywhere. They were saying-- as Robin Williams whispered in "Dead Poets' Society"-- "Carpe diem... Seize the Day." The green ghosts of Lincoln students past were also presient in Adams Coliseum-- home of the Alices from the early 1900's to 1988. Those ghosts said something completely different; they were saying.. "We were winners here... the torch is in your hands... don't let us down. Do your best, and win-- for yourself, and for the tradition of winning we have handed to you. The torch is yours now-- hold it high."
In some places, winning is nice, and losing is sad but not heartbreaking. Community schools-- where the high school represents the community, and at least 100 years of traditions in it-- are different. Look it up; community schools, where one high school represents the community are traditionally successful more than either multi-school communities, or so called "directional" schools. Why? In Lincoln's case, and in many other community schools, it is simple-- just look to the rafters, and hear the message of the Green Ghosts. "To you, we throw the torch of success-- it's up to you to carry the tradition to the next generation. Don't mess it up..."
What is the most important time of a season-ending tournament? Many will say getting the first game under your belt is the best thing; others will say it's a game that may provide a chance for an underdog to make a legitimate run at a favorite. Maybe it is a team not known for its traditional prowess in a certain sport upsetting the balance of power (see Linton basketball, spring of 2013.)
But it all starts on Draw Day. In my mind, the sectional draw is the most-important day of the tournament-- especially in football, where the Sectional champ will be halfway to a state title. It also means a favorable draw for a team is enhanced through the Sectional round.
Football Draw Day is Sunday-- more specifically, Sunday night. In Knox County, two of the four teams-- Vincennes Lincoln and North Knox-- will hope for good draws, to improve their chances. Traditionally, Lincoln's draws have been good, while North Knox's haven't. In Lincoln's 3A Sectional, all roads lead through a rejeuvenated Gibson Southern-- but that doesn't mean L-H-S wouldn't benefit from a good draw. The Alices' win over Washington may help to spark confidence-- and a win over Princeton in two weeks would enhance that.
As for North Knox's field... Linton has shown themselves the class of the sectional-- again. However, one cut below that, three teams could cause problems-- the Warriors, North Daviess, and Perry Central. How can the Warriors do in this field of eight? Don't look at last Friday's game against Linton; instead, look at this Friday's matchup with North Daviess for clues. The two teams face each other at Cougar Valley; I think that game will answer many questions about the two teams' focus moving into their Class A Sectional.
Draw Day- or in this case, Draw Night. Will good things ensue for either or both County teams? The draw will answer many questions...
I am a football fan. I have a great affinity to what the Indianapolis Colts are doing behind Andrew Luck and T.Y Hilton. That win over Seattle was very impressive-- and I really think the Colts are looking good toward making the playoffs.
However, I must admit my love for the Cincninnati Bengals. It isn't a new thing with me-- I became a Bengal fan in 1975, when I had just turned nine years old. I was in my home area of Eastern Indiana over the weekend, and heard a game promo for the Bengals against the New England Patriots. "Their quarterback has MVP awards, Super Bowl rings, and a supermodel for a wife. (That would be Tom Brady, if you are wondering.) Our quarterback has red hair, and is named Andy." (That would be Andy Dalton, by the way.)
Guess who won....
The Colts visit Cincinnati to play the Bengals on Sunday, December 8th. I have basketball games to call on either side of that-- Saturday, December 7th, and Monday, December 9th. If I could, I would love to see that game. By the way, my brothers are both Colts fans-- as are many of you. All I know is, I would love to see that game....
Actually, a week before, I did go to a game-- as the Tennessee Titans played the New York Jets. The Titans won easily, in a wet, raw day. But they lost their quarterback Jake Locker to a hip injury. It's amazing when you see the next day's headlines playing out right before your eyes.
The Colts, the Bengals, and the Titans-- three quality teams, and the teams that may make up half of the AFC playoffs this year. I am a football fan-- and these three teams have made me glad to be there.