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It's spring, and I miss covering athletics

Mar 31, 2020 By Randy Tucker

We often speak of seasons when it comes to athletics. Most of my life has revolved around that concept.

Fall meant football, a sport that people who don't follow or enjoy it never understand its impact.

It's a sport that gets otherwise restless boys back to school. There is no empirical data on just how many young men have graduated from high school and then gone on to college because of football's influence, but it's a lot.

This is America, where the pessimist reigns supreme, so there are endless studies of the dropout rate of both prep and collegiate football players.

We always dwell on the negative in the good ol' USA ,usually because it's so much easier to be a cynic that it is to get involved and actually make a difference in the world.

In my little world of coaching and raising a young family, the end of football season marked the end of bird hunting and deer season.

Fishing changed from a relaxing summertime adventure in the abundant streams, rivers and lakes of our area to more of an Admiral Byrd expedition trying to reach the South Pole.

No, I'm not as big a fan of ice fishing as I am of its more temperate summer cousin, but I appreciate those who are devoted to it.

The winter meant an endless saga of going to work in the dark, getting home in the dark, scraping windshields, seeing the kids for a just an hour or two a day during the week and only on Sunday evenings during the long basketball season.

Basketball coaches don't get the respect and admiration they should from "Joe Fan." They get second-guessed, ridiculed, heckled and disrespected more than any other coaching position.

All the while they work more hours, have longer seasons, longer bus trips and in the insane world of tournament basketball, they rarely get to play on their home court, a place where their young families can come watch dad and his team play.

Perhaps it's the closeness of basketball and the overwhelming urge from many parents to live vicariously through their children that often make it such a hostile environment.

When the final horn sounds, and this year's state champion is crowned (or not crowned in Class 3-A and 4-A this time) it's time to move back outdoors.

In one of the crueler tricks of nature, this spring weather has been nothing short of spectacular this season -- and we don't have a spring sports season.

The COVID 19 shutdown has postponed and likely will eliminate the track and soccer seasons, but Mother Nature evidently didn't get the memo.

The first two Saturdays of the season, days when we should have been at the Wind River and then the Wyoming Indian invitational track meets were gorgeous.

That's not always the case in the Wyoming, but it has been so far this year. No wind, clear blue skies, temperatures that started in the high 30s and reached the upper 50s -- in short perfect March track weather.

Friends who coach in the Big Horn Basin and in Carbon, Sweetwater, Lincoln and Sublette counties reached out to see how the weather was on those two days.

I could tell from the tone of their text messages that they were hoping the weather was bad, that somehow this would assuage the anguish of not competing.

But it wasn't. It was perfect.

Listening to sports broadcasters on the radio and television is a study in lamentations. These people live in the exciting world of competition, and when there isn't any to be found it leaves a void. They aren't the only ones who feel it.

The end of March and the beginning of October mark my favorite times of the year athletically.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is the exclamation mark that ends the long winter and provides real entertainment as Bugtussle University out of Chitlin Switch, North Carolina, upsets mighty Michigan in the opening round.

During Mrch Madness, millions of people fill out tournament brackets, countless dollars are won and lost around the water cooler, and, unlike the major-college football structure, it is a playoff system that produces a true national champion.

As the championship game takes place I'm often switching channels during timeouts and breaks in play to catch the Colorado Rockies. Opening day would have been Friday for the Rocks.

Yes, Major League Baseball coincides, or used to, with the end of basketball. Then comes track and field, with Friday and Saturday and a growing number of Tuesday and Thursday twilight meets filling the lengthening days of spring.

October has its own special place for sports fans. The World Series marks the end of summer as distinctly as opening day marked its appearance.

At about the same time, football gets more interesting with the high school playoffs and bowl game anticipation building, the NFLR00;season deepeni.

And the outdoors is nothing short of miraculous. Fall colors, long shadows, the final hatch on the water enticing game fish as the days begin to shorten, and life begins to move back inside.

It is the perfect relfection of a life well spent, those final days when you can look back on what you've done, who you've loved, the culminating events of your life, and you can smile.

What many people miss is that the beginning would be largely meaningless without the inevitable end.

I look back on the darkening skies and cooling temperatures near the end of football season in October with fondness.

The sun has dropped behind the mountains, those gorgeous fall sunsets light the darkening clouds overhead briefly and as you run the final drills of the day, the smell of someone cooking dinner often wafted over the practice field.

I experienced this in Lusk, Riverton and Shoshoni during my coaching career.

The smells are the same, the sky is the same.

Only the fields are different.

The chill of the approaching night, a slight breeze out of the west, and the sound of pads popping, kids laughing and whistles punctuating the air is magical.

I miss athletics.

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2020-06-03

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