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Over the years I have told several people that, as much as anything, I am in the scrapbooking business.
Yeah, I work at a newspaper. The Gazette pays my bills, buys my groceries and fills my gas tank. In return, I go to a bunch of ballgames, write about them and take some photos.
Seeing as how at one time or another I have lugged furniture, turned wrenches, wrestled cotton bales and waded through both pepper trash and sawdust for a living, that seems like a pretty decent deal on my part.
We at the Gazette are in the News Business, but the thing about print media, perhaps especially in a local paper like ours, is that we are also in the Memories Business. We have to print the bad stuff when it happens, but I’d wager that the bad stuff is outweighed by the happy stuff, the stories we like to remember. That’s why we do things here like laminating and keeping extra copies of each issue.
Unless we’re talking about the Hotline or in conjunction with a mugshot, folks usually like to see their names in the paper, and they really enjoy seeing their kids’ names in the paper. And one of the little joys in life is when you’re digging around in some old junk in search of something and you come across a cache of old newspaper clippings, those crinkly, dog-eared, yellowing pages from a decade or three ago, tucked away in yearbooks and binders and in desk drawers or attic boxes, accidentally uncovered years later. We will find ourselves sitting cross-legged in the floor, re-reading the accounts, reliving the moments in our minds as time seems to stand still for a little while.
At least I know I do.
While I may help preserve memories in my line of work, it’s the kids out on the field who actually make the memories. I’ve never taken the time to put a number on how many games I cover during the school year, but given the facts that, (a) competition starts in late August and can stretch into mid-June, and (b) I probably work on average three games a week, it’s safe to say that I see my fair share.
Therefore it’s pretty difficult to come up with one favorite memory from the recently-completed high school sports year. I don’t know if I could even whittle it down to a favorite memory from each season. There are just so many.
But here are a few.
(Trust me, this isn’t easy for a guy who once forgot to take his kid home from tee ball practice.)
This spring had its share of memorable finishes, especially in baseball. On at least three occasions the Galax baseball team staged huge seventh-inning rallies to come away a winner. The Maroon Tide came from five runs down to edge Narrows 11-10 in the regionals, overcame a 14-10 seventh-inning deficit to down Floyd County in early April and scored six runs with two outs in the seventh to stun Pulaski County a week later.
Pulaski had to be wondering what it had done to anger the baseball gods, as Grayson County also scored five with two outs in the seventh to nip the Cougars.
What may serve as my favorite spring memory, though, is how Grayson County finished the year in baseball. Blue Devil coach Mike Worrell missed the Region C finals and both state tournament games while traveling to China. Ending a year-long adoption process, Worrell and his wife – who have six children of their own – were in Hangzhou to adopt a 13-year-old special needs boy who, once he turned 14, would have been considered an adult, been ineligible for adoption and then turned out of his orphanage to make do on his own. His 14th birthday was during the state tournament week, so it was a pretty close call, but they were able to beat the deadline by just a couple of days, if that, and Henry is now with his new family.
Worrell’s final game was a 10-2 region semifinal win over Floyd County, and he said it may be the only time in his life that he gets to finish the season with a win. But what impressed me was the way the Grayson staff – David Meredith, Tiny Funk, Van Harris, Charles Campbell and Logan Whitt – and the team as a whole carried on, did their jobs and were professional about the whole thing, rallying past Honaker and making it to the state semis before falling to Wilson Memorial.
* * *
The winter months left their share of lasting impressions. Recall how the Galax boys’ basketball team, eviscerated by graduation after back-to-back state titles, struggled to break 40 for the first half of the season? By tournament time they were a team that nobody was especially eager to face. It spoke a lot of the players that they stayed together, and it spoke a lot of the coaching staff that it found the right formula make the team competitive on a regular basis. And when you’re competitive, you can beat anybody on a given night – even if it took a whirling heave of a 3-pointer from 25 feet at the buzzer, like the one Galax used to sink season champ Grayson in overtime in the MED semifinals.
Carroll County’s run to its first Region IV title in 30-some years was a blast to follow. But my favorite memory from the winter was Carroll’s student section. Themes employed by the Cavalier faithful included redneck night, toga night, beach night and a potpourri kind of night that included bananas, cartoon characters and table utensils, everything but lampshades on heads.
And they had the best cheer I’ve ever heard. With a late lead and a win safely in hand, they would unleash this:
If you’re winning and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap),
if you’re winning and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap),
if you’re winning and you know it then your face will surely show it,
if you’re winning and you know it clap your hands (clap, clap).
If you’re losing and you know it clap your hands (points at opposing stands), etc.
* * *
The fall? Dang, that was a long time ago, practice for the 2013 season will start in a few weeks, this piece is too long already, and I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday (really, I can’t, although I’m guessing pork butt).
But if you have a favorite memory from the high school sports year that you’d like to share, then we’d like to hear it. E-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the online version of this piece, use the Comments section.