I’m not one to gloat or boast or to know exactly what those two words mean, but in 2009 I won an award for something other than being annoying. Well, maybe I won it for being annoying, who knows. I was named Best Weekly Sports Columnist in the state for the second straight year. Because I won this award and I’ve finally decided to stop wearing the large plaque around my neck-the chafing in the shower is torture – I decided to provide you here with what I thought was my best work of the year. Depending on how well you like this column, it may or may not be the one that led to the award.
Enjoy, or don’t, I don’t care. I’m tired and I want to go soak my carpal tunneled hands in flaxseed oil, then turn on a game or 12. Happy New Year and I hope 2010 brings you joy in the form of either Preparation H or world peace.
Originally published Sept. 22, 2009.
Though the main event wasn’t much to be entertained by Friday night when the OPRF football team hosted Glenbard West under the school’s new lights at Oak Park Stadium, the prospect of what’s to come is enough to send a bolt of electricity down the spine. (The Huskies lost 31-12).
This is it. The youth football feeder program, developed a few years ago, is the foundation. Those poles surrounding the field at Oak Park Stadium and rising high into the night’s sky are the pillars.
Time to start on the framing up of a powerful football program, the one that draws the masses, the television news stations, Division I recruiters, money for the school, for the athletic department.
Can you imagine it? Can you hear it? It can become the talk of the village. At parks, in coffee shops, over fences in backyards. An entire neighborhood dead quiet, like a ghost town on a Friday night. Maybe no tumbleweed, but certainly the distant bark of a dog upset because his owners have grabbed their OPRF sweatshirts and headed off into the evening’s shadows.
Those “See you at the game” waves between friends and family members. That continuous “Go Huskies” exchange between us locals. The seven dudes in the front row spelling out HUSKIES on their chests with burnt-orange and blue paint. Tailgaters in the parking garage. Portable grills, fold-up chairs, coolers, RVs – OK, maybe not RVs.
But the marching band bringing it all together. Pound that big bass drum. Cue the horns. Zap the PA announcer. Flag dancers, I get it now. The new stadium lights flipped a switch in my narrow-minded brain. You’re graceful. You’re poetry in motion. I won’t ignore you and wolf down my Ball Park Frank during halftime anymore.
Crowds consistently in the thousands every home game. The 86-yard kick-off return for a touchdown. The pancake sack for a 7-yard loss. The 32-yard game-winning field goal.
Football players scouring the neighborhood around Oak Park Stadium on Saturday mornings, picking up trash, helping old ladies cross the street, rescuing cats stuck in trees. “What’s that Mr. Smith, need your leaves raked? You want the defense or the offense to help you out?”
Victories, victory dances, victory salutes, victory celebrations in restaurants around town. Saturday morning quarterbacking. “Why didn’t they do this or do that? What are you talking about, they should have done this and not that.”
It can inspire something even more positive than school spirit, something that’s not just for students and parents of students at OPRF. It can inspire something powerful.
Can you imagine it? The community and high school football united?
It can be electric.