Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Barry Bonds and High School Football

Three cheers and a Tiger for me!!! I have made my 30th blog post. I know, I know, there are bloggers who do that much in one day much less in one year, but then again what have I said? This is not an ordinary blog. I'm not a citizen journalist. I'm just some ordinary schmuck who decided to write about the things I care about. Not that what I care about means all that much. That can be confirmed by the voluminous numbers of comments that are left after each posting.

This being the dog days of August, when the temperature and the humidity are at a 1:1 ratio to each other, there's not a lot of what I would consider bloggable content out there these days. Most bloggers would disagree most vehemently, but then again, I ain't most bloggers.

Barry Bonds finally hit home run number 756, and at least the folks in San Francisco showed him most of the love. There are some howls of outrage from the baseball purists that the home run record once held by Hank Aaron for the past thirty-three years was tainted and should have an asterisk by it because of the numerous allegations that Bonds had taken steroids during his career. That and also Bonds has not always played nice with the media, coming across about as cuddly as a saguaro cactus. But the qualifications for the Hall of Fame fortunately don't place much weight in off-field behavior, otherwise, the original home run king Babe Ruth wouldn't have gotten in because he was quite the party animal back in his day. Ty Cobb wasn't exactly the nicest guy on the planet, yet his plaque proudly hangs on the wall in Cooperstown, NY.

And let us not forget that while Barry Bonds might be as guilty as sin in the Court of Public Opinion, he has not yet been found guilty in the court that really matters, The American Legal System. The evidence is pretty convincing. While Bonds was playing for the Pirates, he was wiry, and thin, and has been considered the Greatest Player to Wear the Pirate Uniform, which is a major distinction from the Greatest Pirate Ever. Soon after he got to the City by the Bay, he became this massive muscular specimen, who in a pinch could have played linebacker for the Forty-Niners. Can you say "Steroids", Boys and Girls??? I knew you could!!! But he hasn't been charged nor has he been convicted in the court of law, so his record rightly should stand. Steroids don't improve the hand-eye co-ordination needed to hit a baseball much less hit it far enough to score a home run, but they can provide the strength needed to make the difference between a long fly ball out and a homer. It's possible to hit long jacks w/o steroids, but they can't hurt either. I'm not a Barry Bonds fan. I'm still pissed at him for candy-arming a throw to home in the '92 LCS that could have gotten the Bucs into the World Series. But I do congratulate him for achieving the greatest milestone in baseball and one of the most sacred records in sports. I hope that he finds peace in his endeavors, and I wish him no ill will.

High school football season started this week with the opening of training camps and all throughout Western PA, football fields have been taking a beating under the pounding of cleats and the popping of shoulder pads ring out all over the hills and valleys of this region. This is the time of year where every team, large or small, rich or poor, City or WPIAL, starts out with the same 0-0 record, and they all think that this could be the year that finally all the hard work pays off in a trophy. Some want to continue their winning ways . Some are just trying to end years of futility. Communities come together to share in the fortunes and the frustrations of the local football team. Former players come back to their field of dreams to relive that game breaking play, or the miscue that allowed the championship to slip away. Bands in colorful uniforms tune up to play the fight songs that rouse their team to victory, Cheerleaders bounce up and down along the sidelines with their youthful uh...exuberance, that sometimes gets the old guys thinking naughty thoughts or cruel reminders about how the head cheerleader turned them down flat when asked for a date to the Homecoming dance.

It's the coming together of a town, a city, a village, a tribe. All bound together by a common set of colors, a token mascot, a name. The knights of old would troop into war with colorful flags and symbols on their shields to show their allegiance to whichever monarch they swore fealty. These days, those symbols are on the sides of football helmets and on the center of the field of battle. Tigers, Panthers, Warriors, Raiders, Dragons, Indians, Wolverines, Jayhawks, Centurions, Ramblers, Bulldogs, Highlanders, Rebels. Symbols of ferocity and heroism. Of ideals that preach perseverance, strength, courage, steadfastness, speed, power, might.

While rampant commercialism, the win-at-all-costs mentality and shady practices have continued to encroach on to the high school game in the form of questionable transfers, endorsement deals from shoe companies, top high school teams playing nationwide schedules, and the myriad of websites and other media outlets that tout the hot recruits and where they are going to college, for the vast majority of players and teams it's still about the love of school, town, and game. Putting on that jersey with your schools mascot and colors knowing that there are ten times that many kids in your school that can't because they didn't earn the privilege. Running out onto that field to the roar of thousands, knowing that you and your teammates are doing something that is bigger than yourselves. It's all about shared sacrifice, teamwork, co-operation, the putting aside of individual identity and agendas to accomplish a goal that only a team can perform. That's what it is and what it's all about.
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