What to say about Linton High School football. I have finally found the team that is the Greek equivalent to Sisyphus-- you know, the Greek legend that was sentenced to eternally roll a stone uphill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom and he had to roll it uphill again and again and again....
Linton's football program is similar. Their Sisyphean task is rolling a football up the hill of the IHSAA state tournament, only to have it roll back downhill at the Semi-State-- or Final Four-- level. It's 2004-- when Ritter blocks an extra point at Roy Williams Field, and win their way to the state finals. It's 2006-- when the Miners lose a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter, and lose a chance at a state title. It's 2012-- with great QB Austin Karaszia leading the attack, they fall short in the football Final Four. And, it's 2013-- with a new quarterback and without super receiver Grant Stamm, they fall one rung short again-- this time east of Indianapolis along I-70, at Eastern Hancock.
I am North Knox's broadcaster, and have a healthy respect-- but a degree of envy as well, for the Linton Miners. I am suprised and stunned at the Greek tragedy that Linton football has become...but that city is rightfully proud of the team's 4 regional titles since 2004. Ironically enough, 2004 was the year another hard-luck team over the decades-- the Boston Red Sox-- broke their 86-year duck in winning the World Series. I just hope Linton fans don't have to way 86 years to get to the football state finals. Equally ironic-- Linton isn't known for its basketball, but the Miners made the basketball state finals in 2012. Who would have imagined THAT?!
Consolidation. A word that has meant progress and pain, health and heartbreak, for students across the state of Indiana. It is a word that means communities have become too small-- too isolated-- to keep, in many instances, the soul of their very being-- their school.
I am one who has believed from the very beginning that if you rip away a town's school, you rip away its soul. This soul excision began in full force in the 1960's, when many towns were coerced, and in some cases forced, to give up the largest part of their existence to become directional centers of learning-- such as North Knox, North Central, Eastern Greene, et cetera. But what of the communities which gave up the schools? It was more than just being a dot on the map, it was community pride for towns like Wheatland and Freelandville and Odon and Otwell and Oaktown.
I am a realist. It had to happen-- I understand that. In some places, they still keep an elementary or middle school, as testament to that town's very existence. But sadly, in most places, they don't even have that anymore. Those towns join the nameless, soulless dots on a map that are mere testaments to the glory that used to fill those towns.
In my home county of Fayette, there is a small dot that has fought-- so far successfully, to keep its elementary in a very remote part of the county. The town of Orange sits in western Fayette County-- but with a very small, and some would argue inefficent, elementary. My cousins attended school there; it was a high school unto itself until the mid-1960's. I attended a school fair there, and visited the gym. To my surprise, what did I see? Banners honoring the old Orange High School's Fayette County runner-up basketball status three times from 1949 to 1953. That tells you all you need to know about their need to keep their school. Rip out a school, and you rip out the soul of a community.
I said all that to say this. The town of Dugger is fighting this time-honored battle right now to keep its schools. Union High School is fading-- but it has hung on through thick, thin, and thinner times. It is part of the Northeast Sullivan School Corporation-- and consolidation is not on their mind-- elimination is. A feasibility study showed Union to be ineficient-- which it may well be...but the people of Dugger are fighting hard to save their school. Because they know, if they lose their schools-- not just high school, but elementary and junior high as well-- they will become just another dot on State Road 54 between Linton and Sullivan. The citizens of Dugger have bought an 11th hour stay, while a special panel takes a couple of weeks to review the case, and see if Dugger's schools will get a reprieve.
It's a battle that has led to progress and disappointment over the last 50 years. Remember, Union High School, and the other Dugger schools, are a consolidation themselves from the first wave in the 1960's and 70's. Will the yellow and black be absorbed into the North Central schools? Time will tell-- but remember this... when you take away a school from a community, you take away its soul.
Today is Veterans' Day. My gracious thanks to the men and women who keep this country free. Thank you so much for your service for our great country.
One of the great benefits of our freedom is watching sports-- even a sports day as bad as yesterday was. The Indianapolis Colts got smoked yesterday-- at home, no less-- by the St. Louis Rams. It isn't the "greatest show on turf" Rams of Kurt Warner-- it wasn't even starting QB Sam Bradford...it was Kellen Clements finding Tavon Austin for TD after TD. Austin even had one on his own-- a 98 yard punt return for a score. Overall, it was a bad day for the Colts-- and after their great run of play, they were due a bad day. But hey, they still have a good lead in the AFC South, with no other real challengers...
It looked like my Cincinnati Bengals were also headed for a bad day. Down 17-0 to an anemic Baltimore Ravens offense, the Bengals came alive-- and connected on a 52 yard touchdown with time expired to tie. They force overtime-- and what happens? They lose on a Ravens field goal. Cincinnati has never been one to follow the script... but-- they are still 6-4 and a game and a half up in the AFC North. They have Cleveland at home and a bye week before facing the last push in their schedule. But after the overlime losses to Miami and Baltimore back to back, you got to figure the questions are going to start for a talented Cincinnati team.
So there you have it. A lost weekend for 2 area NFL teams, but both still lead their divisions. The question marks are there-- but there are still plenty of weeks left to answer those questions....
Incognito vs. Martin. I am sure now you have heard the story-- not only from sports broadcasters, but from news outlets as well.
In case you missed it, Jonathan Martin has filed a grievance that he was bullied by fellow Miami Dolphin Richie Incognito. This story is an onion-- with a whole lot of layers. Are there problems with Jonathan Martin mentally? Is Richie Incognito as bad a guy as some have made him out to be? Was there a lack of team discipline in this? And the question everyone is asking, and will continue to ask for days to come... Who was culpable in this incident?
It also brings up another point... how common is bullying in pro, college, and even grade school locker rooms? I played interscholastic sports through my senior year of high school, and I have suffered some level of bullying. Did I handle it right? Probably not-- I was a sensitive adolescent-- a tall, skinny, geeky person who had trouble at times relating. Unfortunately, tall, skinny, geeky people who can't relate are, more often or not, prey-- especially in high school locker rooms.
Will the Martin case put the spotlight on high school bullying? This isn't "Revenge of the Nerds" here-- these talented athletes are participating on teams, but sometimes can't focus on the court, or the field, due to problems in the locker room. I hope it isn't true, but I can't discount my own experience-- it HAS to be a problem somewhere, in some place, on some level. I also don't have specific cases of locker room bullying-- but I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't come out that it happens somewhere, at some time.
Why don't these folks-- whoever they may be-- stand up for themselves? It is more complicated than that-- because bullying isn't physical. It's mental. Fear of reprisals, fear of ostracism, fear of contantly defending oneself-- those all contribute. And going to authority figures is out, fur the same reason-- fear of reprisal and ostracism by teammates.
The Jonathan Martin- Richie Incognito bullying case is not isolated. But it has led to a discussion whose time has come-- at all levels of sports.
First, allow me to give you my background. I am a native of Eastern Indiana-- Connersville, to be exact. I grew up just over an hour's drive from both Indianapolis and Cincinnati. When I was five years old, in 1972, I discovered the Cincinnati Reds-- the "Big Red Machine" in its newer days. Three years later, I discovered the Cincinnati Bengals-- not quite as great as the "Machine,:" but not a bad team in their own right. I followed the Bengals through thick (1982 Super Bowl), and thin (1977-1981 years).
Then, in 1984, in dramatic circumstances (moving from Baltimore in the middle of the night), a new football team invaded my world. The team would become known as the Indianapolis Colts. All of a sudden, the (Hoosier/RCA Dome--Lucas Oil Stadium/Peyton Manning Memorial) became the focus of Indiana's football experience. And rightfully so... except for me.
My brothers became Colts fans. Many of you also hopped on the "Blue Express." Except for me. I have kept my childhood loyalty to the Orange and Black-- and very happily. I grew up with the Bengals-- I saw them through good times (2 Super Bowl appearances), bad times (the late 1970's), and ugly times (the "Bungles" teams of the ENTIRE 1990's into the early 2000's).
I said all that to say this. I like this edition of the Colts. I was a fence-sitter on Andrew Luck-- but I see in him a lot of John Elway. Like Elway, Luck is a Stanford grad. Like Elway, Luck is the king of the comeback (see last Sunday night against the Texans for an example). And like Elway, Luck, I think, is eventually going to win a Super Bowl-- but I think, like Elway, it will take some time before it comes about.
Yes, I am a Cincinnati Bengal fan-- and always will be. But, I must admit there is a lot to like in a little Luck-- and come on now... who is better to play quarterback for the Horseshoes than a man named Luck?
See you December 8th at Paul Brown Stadium, when my beloved Bengals play the Colts-- maybe for the first of 2 games. Those will be the only times when I hope the Colts' luck (and Luck) run out...