Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Okay, people! This is your first and last warning! Christmas is over! Turn the lights off and take those suckers down!

Whoo, glad to get that out of my system. I am not a grouch or a Scroodge, but enough is enough! I am thinking green here.

And now…on to the rest of my blog.

It is now time for people to make their New Year’s Resolutions, which for most people will be broken by the third of the year.

I got a request from a friend at the Poteau sorta Daily News and Sun for my resolutions. I thought about saying mine is for the Journal to become so popular everybody quits reading and advertising in the Daily News.

But I didn’t. I doubted that baby would ever see paper. And again, I am thinking green here.

So, in an effort to help my readers with their resolutions, I turned to Google for help and lo and behold, they had about 10,000 topics on New Year’s Resolutions.

Here are the top 10 resolutions based on one web site. No information on success or failure rate.

1. Lose weight (A lot of people need to do this, especially the Wal Mart shoppers who always seem to be in the way of where I am trying to go.
2. Manage debt. (No comment)
3. Save money (yes, another one I need to do. See No. 4 below for the major problem with this one)
4. Get a better job (uh, how about a job?)
5. Get fit (Yeah, right!)
6. Get a better education (not a resolution, but something even the Craigman needs)
7. Drink less alcohol (okay, I will stick with beer, or light beer which will help with No. 1 and No. 5!)
8. Quit smoking (I don’t! Good thing I only dip)
9. Reduce stress (okay, I’ll take a nap now!)
10. Volunteer (Does throwing the ball for my dog count here?)

I even did more research! (Yes, it is a slow news day). Two psychiatrists at the University of Maryland offered some tips on achieving resolutions!

Serious, I am not making this up.

One of them suggested the following: Create bite-sized jobs for yourself that you'll be able to accomplish. If your goal is too big, you'll feel defeated before you even get started."

Let’s face it, I feel defeated.

And yet, there were even more tips!

1. Avoid perfectionist thinking. Hmm, how about half you know what thinking? I am good at that.

2. View setbacks as lessons for growth. That is instead of the, boy I really screwed that one up thinking.

3. Don’t make absolute resolutions. This was an example one of them suggested, honest: Instead of saying you won't yell at your kids anymore, resolve to yell at them less often.

4. Don’t keep your resolutions to yourself. Yeah, make sure everybody knows how badly and quickly you fail so they can laugh at you.

5. Give them some meaning. That means don’t make resolutions that aren’t important to you. So this means I don’t have to make a resolution to carry out the trash each week and won’t have to do it, or feel bad when I don’t.

6. Take baby steps. Are there any others? This is also called procrastinating.

7. Fine-tune your spirituality. Whatever.

I hope this helps you with your resolutions.

And yes, I have decided on my resolution. My Resolution is to not make any resolutions, that way I can’t fail.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Snow...again?

Just what the heck is going on? Global warming? Me thinks not. Maybe this is just a hint of winter then the weather will return to what has been normal over the last few years.

I don’t like the cold weather. I don’t care for snow, sleet or a mixture of the two. When I was a young (but a cool guy) I loved the snow. Probably because we didn’t have to go to school and the blood flow must have been better then.

It was cold, but not bad. Now, it can be 40 degrees and I don’t want to be outside. My ears hurt, my fingers don’t work that well and there is the whole bald thing to factor in.

I do like cool…just not cold. The last few years have been fairly mild in the winter so I guess we need a bad winter. But I vote no.

People around my age and up remember some good winter weather. Up to a foot of snow, frequent white stuff, etc.

Now if we get the bad stuff, it is usually ice. Ice is good in a drink but not to drive on.

If I wanted to live somewhere with a lot of snow, I would move north. But I live in LeFlore County, where we get the cold stuff in the winter and the hot stuff in the summer.

Some people say they couldn’t live where the weather was nice year round. They like the different seasons. Okay. I like the fall and spring (aside from tornados and allergies) but I would like to try living in a place where the weather is 70 to 75 year round, or maybe a little warmer during the day and cool in the evening.

But I guess if I did that, I would have to deal with gangs and earthquakes, plus the cost of living would be a little higher than LeFlore County.

I guess I will have to settle for living like that in retirement. Three homes for the Craigman! One here for the start of football season until the end; a warm place for the winter; back home for the spring; then off to the north for the summer.

Now I just have to figure out how to pay for it. Legally. Maybe my upcoming N.Y. Times bestseller: “The Life and times of Craigman!” (advance orders are welcome and I will start writing as soon as I get motivated, or figure out how to make my rather boring life sound enchanting).

Here is my first chapter, which is as far as I have gotten.

I was a fat little Craigman when I was born, nothing to write home (or a book about). A few people knew their lives would never be the same. My life changed soon, about the time I got old enough to waddle. It was the 1960s! Times were a changin’ and not always for the best.”

Wow! Is that good? Kind of makes you want to read more, eh? Time to work on the rest of the tell-all (except the embarrassing parts)!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Christmas!

Nobody asked how my Christmas went. But I know that is just because you are shy but really want to know.

Right? Uh, whatever.

It was nasty weather, as you may recall. Fortunately, I survived, which you can see as I am writing this blog.

But enough of the blather! On to the excitement!

The bad weather forced an early Christmas Eve dinner, not that I cared. The food was ready! After a massive feast, I braved the nasty weather to return my daughter to sender. It was near blizzard like conditions in the greater Cameron metro area.

After the prisoner exchange, I stopped by Wal Mart for something. It was shortly before closing time and the following announcement aired twice during my short visit: “Attention associates, the store will be closing in --- minutes so our associates can spend Christmas Eve with their families!”

I might not be the sharpest nail in the sheetrock, but I figured the associates knew what time they got to Escape from Wal Mart! (Hmm, sounds like a low-budget thriller starring Christian Slater or Cuba Gooding Jr.!) I wondered why they didn’t say: “Hey, get through shopping, idiots who are in Wal Mart on Christmas Eve! We want to go home!”

I would like to add that the freak factor was rather high that evening. When we went in, it was only snowing. But the sleet hit the fan (and cars and road) while I was inside and started covering everything.

I also made my first snowball of the winter! Unfortunately my target slipped behind cover as the snowball headed toward her. No, I was never a pitcher in baseball and didn’t know she could move that fast.

As I made my way home later that evening, the roads were getting a little yucky. I fell in with a convoy of several other vehicles going a whopping 40. I urged! I pleaded! I shook my head in a dramatic fashion! Nothing helped! They wouldn’t go faster. Maybe I should have extended the middle finger, but since it was dark and Christmas Eve, I held off.

On Christmas morning, I made a trip back to Poteau. Only one car and a truck in the ditch. I considered chuckling, but didn’t since it wasn’t that funny and it was Christmas.

But hey, on the day after Christmas, I braved Wal Mart in Poteau and Fort Smith and even went by the mall! Too many people. I have had nightmares of that day. That was plural, as you can tell by the “s” on the end of nightmare. It could have been another bad movie: “Trapped in Wal Mart the day after Christmas!” The return line stretched nearly out the door.

Let’s just say the Christmas spirit was not evident in a lot of the people. I wanted to say Merry Christmas to a few to see the reaction, but I didn’t. Okay, I didn’t want to get hit over the head with a 50-pound purse! Would you? Some of the people looked meaner than the people eaters in Night of the Living Dead.

I also coughed a lot from a combo cold/flu! I blame that on being out in the weather too much and all the germs at the mall and Wal Mart. Obviously the peeps did not know to sneeze into their elbow. Get me a personal injury lawyer! Pronto!

Overall, I survived. I checked the weather this morning. More snow tomorrow? What the Martin N. Hinds is going on?

I did see on Facebook that my buddy Janie (Pitchford) Hairrell’s birthday is today. Happy birthday! She’s almost as old as I am!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My early basketball teams, coaches

A warning! This blog has nothing to do with Christmas Eve, Christmas or the upcoming New Year.

There, I feel better and hope that won’t disappoint you.

Instead, this blog is about basketball, and my mid-term all-county team and coaches of the year.

This is just based on the first part of the season. A lot can and will change by the end of the season when we will have a real all-county team.

BOYS

Coach of the Year—I’ll give this to Scott Nelke of Poteau, although Brooks Cawhorn of Howe and Dustin Gist of Spiro also deserve recognition. Poteau’s program was down when Nelke took over but the Pirates are already one of the best teams in the county.

Poteau has lost only two games and will make a lot of noise over the second half of the season and in the county tournament. Cawhorn’s Lions have only lost one game, knocked off Red Oak and already won two tournaments while Gist and Spiro are also one of the best teams in the county and have wins over Poteau, Heavener and Pocola.

All-county team: Jordan Eagleroad and Marcus Sullivan of Talihina; Mike White of Spiro, Brandon Kirkland and Koda Glover of Heavener, Jaron Wiggington and Jared Wann of Howe, Josh Ross and Britt Brown of Poteau, Mikeal Brooks of Panama, and Patrick Dixon of Pocola. Taggart Lockhart of Talihina has missed the early part of the season with a knee injury but is expected to return at the first of the year, making the Tigers even that much tougher.

GIRLS

Coach of the Year—A fairly easy choice: Chris Brown at Howe. Despite losing eight of the top 10 scorers from a year ago, the Lady Lions are undefeated and have won two tournaments (just like the guys). One other coach who deserves some consideration is first-year coach Todd Hackler at LeFlore.

All-county team: Randa Grant and Chelsea Baggs of Howe, Taylor Collins of Heavener, Misty Johnson of LeFlore, Courtney Allison of Poteau, Megan Severe and Taylor Martindale of Pocola, Kacie Orzol of Bokoshe.

There will be additions for the all-county team which will be announced after the season is over. If I have left somebody out, please put the person's name in the comment box below, or if you have other comments and suggestions.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Facebook day!

As both of my blog readers know, I am not a Facebook fanatic! I do not feel the need to share what I am doing at every second of the day with lots of people who would put me on the ignore list or defriend me if I did.

I do use Facebook to update what is going on with the Journal, but that is it. I realize nobody really gives a flying flip what I am doing every second of every day. But in an effort to fit in with that crowd, I am going to list what my Facebook day would look like!

I know, nobody cares, so why am I writing a blog about what my day would look like if nobody actually would care to read it? Uh, beats me. I just thought it would be fun.

(Between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m.) Whoa, I am out of bed! Gosh, I wish I could have slept longer but I woke up. Man, I don’t feel good this morning because (please pick appropriate response) a. I didn’t get enough sleep! b. I slept too much! c. It is too cold! d. It is too hot! Or my personal favorite: e. ooh, maybe I shouldn’t have had that third helping of chili last night!

(Shortly after I have gotten out of bed) Hey guys, just used the restroom! I feeeeel so much better! (Please note, this can’t be used on the mornings after the third bowl of chili the previous night)

(Approximately 8 a.m.) Well, I just read the newspaper! Boy, I wish the Fort Smith paper would write about things I care about! The sports page featured 90 percent crud on the Razorbacks!

(8:15ish) Hmm, I wonder if I should shave? It's only been two weeks. I could probably wait another day!

(Approximately 8:30) Fixing to eat breakfast! (Five minutes later) Finished breakfast! Boy, am I stuffed! I might have to make another pit stop!

(A little later, depending on the circumstances post breakfast) Working on web site! Read my emails! Man, I get a lot of junk on my Yahoo mail account! Does Viagra know something I don’t?

(Mid morning) Still working on updating the web site. I checked my email for the fifth time! Got another email from somebody wanting me to take Viagra, for some reason. Also got some good stuff for the Journal!

(Around lunch) I am fixing to eat lunch! Gosh, I don’t know what I should have! But I know it will be good!

(A few minutes later) I am eating lunch! Bologna! Man, that really hit the spot. I wonder why nobody has commented on my status updates? I guess everybody is really busy today!

(Around 1) Boy, a nap sure would be good!

(A little later) I took a nap! Now I feel groggy and like it is my time of the month!

(After a cup of coffee) Ifeelenergizedagain! Notinabadmoodanymore. Guess everybody is still busy, no comments!

(Midafternoon) Think I’ll turn on the television and see what is happening! Man, there’s like 10 zillion shows featuring irritable judges and spouses cheating on each other and lying about it!

(Sometime later, after I have tired of watching people shout at each other) Going to visit my special friend!

(Approximately 4 p.m.) I wonder why nobody is home? I keep knocking but nobody answers the door and I hear movement inside! Maybe it’s the dog?

(6ish!) Going to cover a basketball game!

(A few minutes later) Driving to a basketball game! Is Facebook messed up? Still no status comments, everybody must still be busy! Going to stop at a convenience store to get something to eat!

(Around 6:20) At the gym at (insert whoever here)! Gosh, my stomach sure is queasy! I wonder why?

(6:30) Game is fixing to tip off! Man, I feel like I am about to explode!

(6:45) End of first quarter! Man, this game is exciting! It is 5-4!

(7) My stomach just groaned so loud the girl fixing to shoot a free throw paused and asked if I was okay! She must have been concerned cause she missed both. Halftime, 15-14! Lots of attempted threes! Not a whole lot of drives so my pictures will probably not be good!

(7:20) Went to the restroom! Looked like something had died there so I hope to make it home without a major accident! Second half has started! Whoa, another three attempt!

(8) I wonder how old those corn dogs were I ate for dinner? Everything is a little blurry and it feels like the Grambling band is performing in my stomach!

(8:15) First game is over! Final score 20-18! Now on to boys!

(8:30) Hey, the boys are starting! I wonder why the school administrator is eyeing me funny?

(9) An officer of the law takes me aside and asks if I have any contagious diseases! I tell him I am just here to cover the game. Said he had some complains from the 10th row. He looked dubious!

(10) Game is over! Almost as many fouls as there were points! I guess the officials thought they were getting paid per foul!

(10:30) I am home! Is that an EPA van parked out front? Checked Facebook and still no comments! I didn’t know people were that busy! Going to write my story and post it and pictures! I bet lots of people are ready for that!

(11:30) Well, long day! I finished my story and pictures! Guess I’ll go to bed! Goodnight FB friends!

Then, I sleep!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My early LCT blog

The brackets and seeding for the LeFlore County Tournament were decided on Wednesday evening.

I am no expert, which most people notice quickly and don’t hesitate to inform me, but I have seen nine of the county schools play basketball this season and will add two more to that list when I watch Talihina play at Wister tonight.

The only other schools I have not seen are Arkoma and Whitesboro, but I plan on seeing them some time this year.

I also have a ranking for county schools on the Journal. Let’s see how the old Craigger did as opposed to how the coaches seeded the schools, shall we? Yes, we shall!

Girls Boys
Journal Coaches Journal Coaches
1. Howe 2. Heavener 1. Talihina 1. Talihina
2. Heavener 2. Howe 2. Howe 2. Spiro
3. Pocola 3. LeFlore 3. Spiro 3. Poteau
4.LeFlore 4. Pocola 4. Poteau 4. Heavener
5. Poteau 5. Bokoshe 5. Heavener 5. Howe
6. Panama 6. Poteau 6. Pocola 6. Panama
7. Spiro 7. Panama 7. Panama 7. Pocola
8. Talihina 8. Wister 8. Wister 8. Wister
9. Bokoshe 9. Spiro 9. Cameron 9. Cameron
10. Wister 10. Talihina 10. Arkoma 10. Whitesboro
11. Arkoma 11. Whitesboro 11. Whitesboro 11. LeFlore
12. Whitesboro 12. Arkoma 12. LeFlore 12. Bokoshe
13. Cameron 13. Cameron 13. Bokoshe 13. Arkoma

As you can see, there are some differences, not that it matters a whole lot. The main differences in the two are in the boys where I have Howe rated second while the coaches had the Lions fifth.

If you look at the team, they are not as athletic as some schools ranked above them. But they are a solid team with good basketball players and I think Howe deserves my ranking because they just knocked off Red Oak on Saturday night.

One big difference on the girls is the coaches have Bokoshe at fifth while I have them at ninth. No offense to the Lady Tigers, but I feel like both Poteau and Panama are better teams and would win head-to-head.

The Journal and coaches also have Pocola and Panama at different positions. They are two similar teams with good coaching and players.

My darkhorse for the boys is Poteau. I have the Pirates at No. 4 while the coaches selected them third. But if any team has a chance at knocking off Talihina, Poteau would be my choice. The Pirates are the biggest team in the county, are also well coached and have some good guards.

Everybody is pointing to a Heavener and Howe matchup in the girls. But a team to watch out for is LeFlore. The Lady Savages have some good scorers and one of the better players in the county in Misty Johnson.

The Journal had Pocola selected above LeFlore, but this is one that could go either way. Overall, Pocola has better athletes, but it would not be a big surprise to see LeFlore finish third.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Once upon a time...

The following admission is not one I like to share.

Once, I was an official in football and basketball. I called football for two years and basketball for one year (yes, that was all it took!)

Actually, I am still an official, but only from a distance. I see good officials, some that aren’t so good and others that…never mind.

There have been plenty of times I was not pleased with officiating in pro, college and high school.

And yes, I have voiced my displeasure. There have been times where I even yelled, mainly at the television. I try to behave in public. You will see why shortly.

Some people are not as well behaved, even in high school and junior high games.

I might catch myself helping an official at times, but I don’t say things as a personal insult and try to limit my comments, since I am technically working and supposed to be impartial.

Well, I am impartial when it is two county teams playing each other. If it is a county team playing against an out of county team, I want the county team to win. It just might not seem that way in my stories as I try to be balanced.

I cringe, groan and might make a comment to whoever is unlucky enough to be sitting by me, but I never yell or stand and wave my arms and tell the official he or she is blind, an idiot or needs to quit officiating, which I have heard many times this year and in years past.

That is because I realize what the officials are going through. I have seen many games where the officiating seems slanted to one team over another, even this year. I don’t like this and try to convince myself that is not the case.

After all, we are dealing with people and after officiating (especially basketball), I know how difficult it is to call games. In high school, the officials are part time. This isn’t there main job and most of the officials do it because they love the sport and enjoy it.

I wouldn’t want to call basketball. I doubt most of the people sitting in the stands could do better, or would want to try.

Coaches, fans and players get frustrated. I still do. I remember getting called for fouls when I never even breathed on an opponent.

And yes, I even got hit with a technical while playing. An official called a foul on me and I turned the opposite direction and made a comment about the call. Unfortunately, the other official happened to be looking in my direction and did not appreciate what I said, not that I blame him.

I got a seat on the bench for doing that and a lecture from my parents. Sadly, my mother didn’t see or hear what I said but some snitch felt inclined to share my comment. I was told that if I wanted to continue my athletic career, I should not use that type of language, especially at a public event.

I tried to do better after that, and still do.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A good night to be a Lion...and Lady Lion

Saturday night was a special night for Howe’s players, coaches and fans.

The Howe contingent got to see both their teams take the first-place trophies in the EOSC Tournament.

Just getting into the finals was good and one win would have been great. But two wins was extra special, especially because of the opposition and the brilliant play by a player on each of the teams. Plus the endings just added to the celebration.

The Lady Lions downed Indianola, which had been ranked 11th coming into the game while Howe was seventh. Howe trailed early in the game by 10 points, fought back to take the lead only to see Indianola rally.

Howe trailed by three points with 1:44 left before going on an 8-0 run to take the lead and clinch the win in front of a packed crowd. The final score was 72-69. Two players from Howe, Chelsea Baggs and Randa Grant were named to the All-Tournament Team with Baggs winning the MVP award.

To win, Howe had to overcome a spectacular night from the Lady Warriors’ Whitney Barnes, who scored 36 points despite constant pressure.

If the first game was the main course, the nightcap was dessert. Howe would face Red Oak, the second-ranked team in Class B. The Eagles were undefeated on the season and won the Class B state championship last year.

Howe took the game to the Eagles from the very start. The only way Red Oak stayed close was the shooting of junior Dwight Camp, one of the best shooters I have seen in high school.

At one point, the 6-4 junior knocked down three straight baskets from well outside the three-point line, from different spots. All three shots touched little as they went through the gym.

But Howe kept its composure despite the play of Camp. In the second half, the Lions built a lead of nine points, but their two big guys fouled out and after Red Oak cut the lead to one, it looked bad for Howe.

Howe came back and took a lead, thanks to some clutch free-throw shooting, only to see Red Oak tie the score with 8 seconds left. The Lions roared down the floor and made a basket as the buzzer sounded, only the officals called walking and waved off the basket.

Red Oak scored first in overtime. Howe bounced back with a three-point basket by Jared Brown to take the lead and Jace Johnson added another basket to give the Lions a three-point lead.

Howe hit its free throws down the stretch, including six straight in the final 40 seconds to clinch the win and shock the Red Oak players, coaches and fans.

Camp finished with 32, but the balanced play by Howe was the difference. The Lions had four players in double figures, including Jared Wann, who scored 20 points in the finals and was MVP. Jaron Wiggington was also named to the All-Tournament team.

The only thing that could top this would be a double win in the finals of the LeFlore County Tournament. That will be extra tough, but judging from Saturday night, don’t count Howe out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thanks to you...it worked!

Many years ago, I helped picked all-this and all-that teams.

That was back in the 1980s when I worked at a newspaper in Texas. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and I am that old, even though I obviously don’t look like it.

For the most part, it was an easy decision. When I decided to do an All-County football team for the Journal, I knew it would not be as easy.

First, because it is a little closer to home. I live here, know a bunch of the kids and coaches. I wondered how the players, coaches, fans and especially parents would react if their favorite player was not selected.

So I knew that there would be some upset people. For anybody upset, I apologize and know how it feels. But I can honestly say (or write) that I did my best and tried to be fair and impartial on all the selections.

I also hope you like the team. I did a lot of work, helped by a lot of people. Instead of strictly replying on coaches, I also opened up the nominations to our readers and we received some good input.

There were also letters sent out to the head coaches at all eight schools playing football. We received nominations from coaches at five of the schools and I want to thank the coaches for taking the time to fill out the ballots, along with the fans who sent in nominations.

The team would not have been possible without your help. I am pleased with the selections, just wish we had gotten information from all the county schools.

To all the players and the coach selected, congratulations. I really enjoyed covering the games this year and getting to watch and meet many of you. During the season, I traveled to Spiro (twice), Talihina (three times), Heavener, Poteau (three times), Sallisaw and even to Hennessey to watch our county players play.

The coaches and players were great, as were the fans and readers. I look forward to next year and the All-County teams in all the other sports. Again, thank you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A different look

As many of you know, I enjoy photography.

My main interests are sports, bugs and landscape.

I like to do my pictures a little different, from getting inches away from bugs (yes, some that sting and I have been stung and bit) to using different angles and views.

On Tuesday, I went to Heavener's game at Spiro. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I love Spiro's gym. It is one of the few gyms I have been to that has lighting good enough that I don't have to use a flash.

Before going to the gym, I wanted to capture the look of the beautiful gym and action all in a different view from the normal shot.

So I gave it some thought and decided to try the image you see below.

I took my 10-22 mm Canon lens and set it at 10 mm, which is as you can see very wide angle. I set the speed at extremely slow to capture the blurred motion which is evident in the picture. To see a bigger version of the shot, click HERE.
Then, I sat the camera on the floor, held the camera still with one hand while I pressed the shutter. the ISO was at 100 while the aperture was f-22.

I did not apply any special effects to the picture such as blurring. The blur is from the slow shutter speed which shows the players and coaches moving. The Spiro cheerleader on the right was still, although she did almost kick me in the face later on, which I hope was an accident. You can also see the scoreboard at the center of the court.
Just thought I would share this picture and how I took it with you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Help!

Help!

I don’t often ask for help or like to ask, but I need your help.

Actually, it’s not just for me. It’s also for two of my best friends, Gabby and Rufus.

See, Gabby and Rufus are two of my dogs. I have moved and can’t take Gabby and Rufus with me. So they need a home, a very good home.

Gabby is approximately eight years old and is half Akita and half Rottweiler. She loves people and going on walks. I am not sure about moonlight dinners. Gabby is a good watchdog and is an outside dog.

Rufus is four-years old and is a full-blood Boxer. He has a great personality and loves people. Rufus is good with little ones and loves to be with people.

Rufus has been neutered and Gabby has been spayed so no puppy worries! They are both good-sized dogs but both are very loving and have good personalities.

If you are interested in either Gabby or Rufus, please call me at (918) 649-4712.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hoopsters, baby!

The basketball was a little ragged at times. Okay, it was frequently ragged. The officials, understandably, looked the other way as players took several steps while holding the ball and frequently double, triple and quadruple dribbled the ball.

None of the coaches or fans complained. The coaches were too busy trying to give instructions and the fans were too busy laughing or encouraging the little ones.

This was not a high school, junior high or elementary game. Nope, it was Hoopsters action at the Heavener High School gym early on a Saturday morning.

A friend, Ralph Perdue Jr., told me his daughter was playing and as a good buddy, I showed up to try and take some pictures.

I messed up the time and showed up early, but that’s okay. I came back, talked to a few friends and watched the little ones arrive. On one end, the older kids played while on the other end, the REALLY little ones played on a court with lower rims than normal.

Baskets were few and far between, about what you would expect from children ranging in grades from kindergarten to third grade.

The teams sported t-shirts proudly proclaiming they were the Lady Lakers, Replacements, Lil Stealers and my personal favorite, the Dribblin Divas.

The talent level varied among the players, as did the size. There were some tall kids, short ones and a bunch in between. Some of the players wanted the ball and didn’t mind the contact while others preferred standing around and watching the action, running to the other end of the court when their coaches or parents told them to go that way.

I sat on one end and watched the battle between the Lady Lakers (yes, all girls) play the Replacements.

The Replacements took an early lead and despite a rally by the Lady Lakers, held on for the win.
I must admit, I didn’t catch the final score. Not that it really mattered. The little boys and girls were playing for the right reason: just to have fun.

There were frequent substitutions, and not just during time outs.

Nobody let out a boo, questioned a coaching decision or shouted at the officials.

I liked that. It was basketball the way it should be played. They had fun. Basketball is a game, after all, designed for physical fitness and for the kids to have fun.

None of the players will worry one bit about the loss. The fans and parents won’t retreat to a forum and question the sanity of coaches or officials or discuss strategy that might have made a difference in the outcome.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rating the county gyms

Two days ago, I wrote a blog about how impressed I was with Spiro’s new gym.

I have been to all the county gyms, aside from Talihina and Whitesboro. I decided to rate the gyms and get input about where I was right or wrong. I have heard good things about Talihina’s gym, don’t know anything about Whitesboro’s gym and since I haven’t actually seen them, they will be left out of the ratings.

This will only cover high-school gyms so CASC will not be listed.

1. Spiro—a great gym, no doubt. Spiro has set a standard all other schools should strive to meet. All chairback seats, great lighting, scoreboard in the center of the court and much more. Also can hold more fans than any other gym in the county.

2. Howe—the second-newest gym in the county. Good lighting, plenty of seating.

3. Heavener—this gym is one of my favorites, even though it is now almost 30 years old. Lots of seating, good floor, decent lighting.

4. Poteau—I don’t have fond memories of this gym since we got our tush kicked the only time I played there, but still a good gym. This gym opened the same year as Heavener, the fall of 1980.
5. Wister—another pretty new gym. Wister should be proud of this facility.

6. LeFlore—It has been about 10 years since I last visited LeFlore’s gym, but it was nice back then.

7. Panama—an old gym that has stood the test of time.

8. Pocola—another old one still in decent shape.

9. Arkoma—a good gym for a small school. Will host part of the county tournament this year.

10. Bokoshe—It has been a while since I was there but it is another good gym for a small school.

11. Cameron—The last of the old-time gyms. Wooden bleachers, little room around the court, not a whole lot of parking. But hey, it was built in the 1930s, I imagine. The only school to not build a new gym in the last half century. Banners galore on the walls, looks like it could have been used for the movie "Hoosiers".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spiro did it right

I knew Spiro had a new gymnasium prior to Tuesday night.

Several people had told me how nice the gym was but wanted to see for myself. I am not easily impressed and didn’t expect to be surprised.

I went to the new gym Tuesday night to cover Spiro’s game with Poteau. I had been to Spiro’s old gym several times over the years, even played in it. The gym was a dump and needed to be sent out to pasture like the old gyms in Talihina, Heavener and Poteau, among others.

So when I pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised at the number of parking spots. I had been to the gyms at Sallisaw and Muldrow and was impressed.

As I walked to the entrance, I could see the chair-backed seats on both sides and the walkway leading around the court.

My first thought was whoever designed this facility did it right. Two concession stands, nice restrooms, plenty of room in the lobby, a nice stage area at the far end, even a scoreboard mounted from the ceiling in the middle of the court. This was the first time I had seen this at a high school.

They even had game clocks attached to both baskets. I made my way down to the court level and checked out the lighting. It was great! No need for a flash for my camera! Plus, there was plenty of room on the baselines so I could keep back far enough to avoid getting trampled by the officials while taking pictures.

I heard different numbers on the seating ranging from 1,400 to 1,600. That seemed about right. Plus, all the seats had backs on them. All the seats were also back away from the court with no seating at the bottom, although seats could be set up on the stage to increase the number of seats, if necessary.

The only negative I heard was that the railing is tough to see over if you are sitting in the first three rows. In the second game, I sat in the second row and had no trouble seeing the action.

I did not count the number of seats, but was confident more people could fit in Spiro’s gym than any other one in the county, including Carl Albert’s.

There was some talk about holding the finals of the county tournament in the new gym before it was announced Friday’s semifinals and Saturday games would again be held at UAFS.

Some coaches weren’t crazy about playing the finals at Spiro since it would not be a neutral location. I don’t necessarily blame them. But a facility this nice needs to be used as much as possible, such as all the semifinal games being held there with the finals held at UAFS since the crowd might be bigger than Spiro’s gym could held.

Seeing such a nice facility made me thing about how great it would be if a facility this nice with twice the seating could be built in Poteau. That way the county tournament would not have to be held across the state line and all the district, regional and area tournaments in the southeast could be held in Poteau.

With the economy struggling, it would be difficult to build a facility like that. But can you imagine the impact such a facility would have for Poteau and the county?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

All County team coming soon

Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, or maybe just don’t know any better.

But yesterday, I posted a story and ballot for the upcoming All-County football team which will appear in the Journal on Dec. 11. I also mailed ballots to all the football coaches at the county schools.

I hope to hear back from all the coaches. I would also like to hear from assistant coaches, fans and the players. The selections will be based on this input along with my personal input.

I saw five of the eight county teams this year. The only ones I did not see play were Pocola, Arkoma and Bokoshe. The players from those schools will get the same look as players from other schools.

If a player had a good season and somebody feels like that player deserves recognition, he will certainly get looked at.

The final selection will be mine. So don’t gripe to your coach or superintendent if a player is not selected. Gripe at me, just make sure the player was nominated first.

We will have a Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and the Spirit Award.

Several nominations have already arrived. Hopefully, many others will come in. All positions are open. If you do want to nominate a player, include as much information as possible.

We will also have a first-team offense and defense and a second team for offense and defense, along with honorable-mention selections.

So, since this will generate some controversy why did I do this? Simple, for the people who coach, play or watch football. Some kids will feel honored, others won’t. I know this and have a pretty good idea how those players will feel. Plus I hope it will attract readers.

Here is the ballot.

You can submit your ballots by email or mail them to: LeFlore County Journal, P.O. Box 550, Heavener, Ok. 74937.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A few confessions

In order to be a better person, I have a few confessions for you readers. No, I am not Catholic and have not done anything bad.

I try to be a modern guy, but I fail badly.

My cell phone is like four years old and gasp…does not have internet access! I can’t send or receive emails on my phone! I remember when people survived without a cell phone glued to their ear or thumbing away sending a text message.

I get irritated when I go somewhere and all you see are people talking or texting on their phone. Is this necessary?

I didn’t even text until a few months ago. Now, I do. Is life any better? Actually, it is much better, but it doesn't have anything to do with texting.

I can and sometimes do go all day without turning on the computer or checking one of my ten zillion email accounts, but not as often since I started the LeFlore County Journal (established September of 2009!).

I’m not real good on this social networking stuff either. I don’t even check my myspace account! My last status update was over a month ago and was a joke to get people to watch a video where some guy screamed into the screen to scare them.

I don’t know when I last updated my facebook account. I do check to see if anybody has anything interesting to say. But I must admit I do not care what people are doing when they aren’t doing anything worth mentioning since that is usually what I am doing and don’t feel the need to pass that information on. Boy, that was a wordy sentence. I have yet to see anybody say they are fixing to have a bowel movement, or just got through with a good one.

Some people really enjoy this facebook stuff and have thousands of friends. I have like 150 or so. Some of the people are friends, others are people I once knew and there is a group of people who requested my friendship for some reason I have yet to figure out. But I still friend them!

At least until they irritate me or update which silly game they have been playing too much. I do like the technology which allows me to hide some people’s messages or updates. But I don’t let on who I hide.

Does that make me mean or bad? Probably, but that is life.

I do use facebook and twitter to send messages to the people who read the LeFlore County Journal. I try not to send too many updates and I fail to inform anybody of a trip to or from the bathroom.

I was so glad when VCR’s went out of style. I never could figure out how to record on those things. DVR’s are much nicer! Now I just have to delete the stuff that has been recorded that I never meant to record.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Road trippin with the Tigers

I must admit, I did not plan on going to Hennessey to watch Talihina play in the quarterfinals.

Instead, I planned on listening to the game on the radio to avoid the four-hour plus trip to and fro.

But that all changed Thursday evening when my buddy Andy Perdue called and asked if I wanted to go with him. He did not disclose how far down his list I was, but I told him I would think about it and give him a call back Friday morning.

I didn’t want to drive or ride all the way to Hennessey. I doubt anybody actually did. But after thinking about it for about two minutes, I called him back and said I was in.

We departed from his house yesterday around 1 p.m. for the long journey. Off we went, Andy driving, thank goodness, and I perched in the passenger seat.

Since I am obviously not a female, I do not recall every word that was discussed, not that it is that important. Instead, I will summarize our conversations:

1. Football
2. Golf
3. More football
4. Coaching football strategy
5. Golf courses
6. Funny stories, most not appropriate for a family-oriented blog

We took 59 up to I-40 and headed toward Oklahoma City, after a short full-bladder inspired break at Sallisaw. Around 4, we made it to OKC and headed to Bricktown to visit Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar! or whatever it is called.

Andy said the grub was good and I trusted his opinion. He does know the best places to eat throughout the state.

I had never been in Toby’s eaterie before. It was nice and not as crowded as I feared, since the Hornets were playing at home that night.

Toby was singing Christmas songs over the loudspeaker. Now I like Toby, but I am glad he is not relying on his Christmas songs to make a living.

We got some chips and dip and ordered. I selected the 10-ounce sirloin, since it was steak and I do like my charred flesh to eat. Andy followed with the same choice after considering the chicken fried stead, which he assured me pretty much covered the whole plate.

They had a screen about the size of Hodgen showing the Alabama and Auburn game. The wait staff was very efficient in making sure the iced tea did not go empty. I’d take a gulp and before I knew it my drink was topped off.

We quickly devoured the chips, salsa and some other stuff I did not try while wishing Alabama would screw up and Auburn would win. Some goober at the next table actually cheered for Alabama, not that many others were interested in anything other than moving food from their plate to their mouth.

The steak quickly arrived. I was amazed how quickly the food got to our table, then realized since we were not pounding overpriced alcoholic beverages, they probably wanted our money and the table for the next group.

I must say, it was one of the better steaks I have tasted. It had some kind of seasoning or cooked on something that made it taste like it was cooked over charcoal, which was probably how it was cooked.

We devoured the dead cow, paid the bill and headed up 35. Luckily, the traffic was light and we got out of the metro area without anybody flipping us the bird.

Soon, we realized we were going to be early for the game. Like, way early. Hwy. 51 arrived and we headed to the west. We got to Hennessey 75 minutes before the game, but there were already a bunch of people on the Talihina side.

The stadium was one of the nicer ones I have seen. The lights were awesome, which meant no flash on the old camera! The turf looked like a dormant fairway at a plush golf course. Even the people were nice! I was wearing a black and yellow hoodie, but nobody wearing blue said anything negative or felt the need to flip us off.

Sadly, the game was not good for our friends from southern LeFlore County. The Tigers made a bunch of mistakes and that is not something you can do against a team ranked second in the state.

Talihina played hard to the end. Toward the end of the game, I talked to a guy from Hennessey to enquire about two friends from there I went to school with. He knew one of the guys and said my friend was alive and well.

I also got some good pictures! A win would have been nice, but it just wasn’t meant to be this night.

Andy and I expertly made our way out of the stadium and were among the first to leave! We headed back east on 51 and stopped at a nice convenience store to empty bladders once again. One poor representative of Oklahoma, who looked like a poor-man’s Joe Dirt, wore a hat that said “Show me your _ _ _ _ _ _ _”. His hat used another word for a woman’s chest region. I wanted to take his picture for proof, but realized that would be immature and probably dangerous.

Our conversation on the way home was similar to the one on the way up, except we did talk about Foot Hunting. Don’t ask. Got back to Poteau at around 2, as in the a.m.! I arrived home about half an hour later, exhausted and glad to be home.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My golf: the not so good, the bad and the truly ugly

I enjoy playing golf. I used to play a lot and actually got fairly decent at it. Fairly decent? What does that mean, you ask? Basically it means I didn’t stink as much then as I do now.

On Monday, my good friend Ralph Perdue Jr. made the mistake of inviting me to go golf with him. I think he was just being nice, or there wasn’t anybody else to play with.

Ralph and I have played hundreds of times. So he should know better. I don’t play much any more and haven’t played in several months. We also didn’t get any time to warm up. Yes, I am making excuses, and you will see why shortly.

So we arrived at the first tee at the Choctaw Country Club on a brilliant, yet somewhat windy (yes, another excuse, I’ve got a bunch) day to play a friendly round of the gentleman’s game.

Ralph’s daughter, Journey, joined us, mainly to drive his cart. On the first hole, you can hit it down the middle (as if) and there is roughly two hundred yards on the right to hit to so you can avoid the driving range and out of bounds to the left.

I promptly pulled my first tee shot to the left and out of bounds. Being the nice guy he is, Ralph allowed me to hit a mulligan, which I promptly sailed out of bounds as well.

I decided to hit from the approximate place my ball went out of bounds, plus around 50 yards closer to the green. No, this is not how you are actually supposed to play the game. So?

My next shot went approximately 25 yards as some of the mud went farther than my ball, I didn’t see Ralph’s face, but I could imagine his look. Finally, I pulled out the trusty old six iron from 155 and HIT THE BALL GOOD! Too good, actually, as I sailed the green. From there I promptly hit a chip around two feet, putted way past the pin and three-putted from there.

No, I wasn't off to a good start sport fans! The second hole is a Par 3. I hit the old 6-iron pretty good the last hole so I decided to try my luck. Whoa, I hit it decent, and came up only about 15 yards to the right. Thank you oh 6-iron.

Guess I should have chipped with the 6-iron as I again plopped my chip about three feet then muscled my next chip over the green. Yeah, the old short game was biting so far, not that it got much better. I pulled my next chip about half way to the pin and two putted.

Argh, I thought. At least Journey was not critical. On to three! I managed to duck hook a 5-wood into the pond on the left. No, this was not how the shot was supposed to be played. I got lazy, saw Ralph was not paying attention and found a drop spot with a good opening, not that it helped as my next shot went into the far side of the fairway with trees looming over and between me and the green.

Not that the trees hurt as I hit a worm burner that skidded to a stop well short of the green. I chipped, chipped again, found the green and two or three putted.

But at least it was a nice day! On to hole 4, my favorite! I hit a little slice, not that I planned on it, and wound up in…gasp! The fairway! An easy second shot. Ralph had a much tougher shot and wound up just short of the green. I could have probably spit a loogie on the green from where I was. Sadly, I had to chip and wound up right next to his ball. I promptly shanked a chip across the green and two putted for the dreaded bogey.

Five was right into the teeth of the wind. That actually helped as my drive came up about two feet short of the ditch. I had some good grass and decided a 3-wood would be perfect. I hit a dribbler that was so ugly it actually turned out decent.

I promptly air mailed the green, hit another horrid chip and two putted for another bogey. Again, it was a nice day!

The hole I hate the most was next. Numero 6, but at least the wind was behind us. Ralph hit a so-so driver, which still found the fairway. Old Craigger hit a perfect drive! I was in the fairway, only 110 out! Yes, miracles do happen! My second shot was right at the pin, only about 10 feet or so away! A chance for a birdie!

Well, it would have been but I hit a chicken shot and wound up about two feet above the cup. I did make the putt for a par!

I had momentum going now, by gosh! Pumped up, I promptly pulled a drive so far to the left we never found the dratted ball. I blame it on hitting into the sun. Ralph probably blamed it on the duck hook. I dropped somewhere on the other side with a clear view of the green and hit one about 10 yards or so. I tried another and got about halfway to the green.

My next shot went over the green, of course, where I promptly hit a decent chip and two putted.
On to 8. Since I did not want my duck hook to get out of practice, I hit another one. A nice, high one that settled close to the trees on the left that nobody but I ever seem to hit into. A cruddy chip, another one and I two putted.

Hole No. 9 is another favorite. I actually hit another decent drive, even Ralph said so! Naturally, I had a brain poot on the second shot and hit it shorter than Journey can hit a ball, had to pull out an iron and hit in the fairway. My next shot sailed the green, leaving a nasty chip, not that I needed a nasty chip to mess up. Another multi-putt and the first nine holes were over.

Since my first try on No. 1 was so bad, I decided a repeat was in order. For those not familiar with Choctaw, it is a 9-hole course with the tees at different locations. I promptly hit the trees on the left, again, but this time got a lucky bounce and it stayed in bounds. I cranked my second shot at least 50 yards and hit an ugly slice to the right of the cart path. I chipped another bad one, putted too many times and was through with that hole.

On the 11th hole, my good old duck hook came back into play and I about knocked one into Mike Thomas’ yard. The second shot wasn’t much better, neither was the chip or putt.

But we were making good time and it was still a nice day! Somehow, Ralph was only four over on the day. I guess he was getting plenty of rest from all the times I was hitting the ball. On 12, I got a good bounce off a tree and wound up in the fairway! My second shot actually found the green! Another try for a makeable birdie, like I get many of those. The putt was on line! Sadly, it came up roughly two feet short, but I did make the next one for a par!

The dreaded Par-3 13th was next. Plenty of fairway, just a long hole. Naturally, I pulled my drive into the pond, which was WAY to the left. I chipped, chipped again, putted badly a couple of times and we were on to the next hole.

Fourteen was again a Par-5. A perfect drive. I tried to take advantage of this, but it doesn’t work that well when I slice my second shot into the water. Dropped again, hit a perfectly crappy shot, hit over the green, three putted and the sun had set quite a bit on that hole. Darkness was approaching!

I took advantage of the short 15th hole by once again hitting a massive duck hook into the fairway of the next hole. I couldn’t judge the distance, not that it would have helped much, but I hit what I thought was a good ball, until it plunked into the muck in front of the green. A drop, decent chip and two putts later, the hole was done.

On 16, I skipped one into the second ditch, but avoided the pond right in front of the tee. A drop, bad shot and one over the green. A poor chip, but I made a long putt.

It was really starting to get dark. The winds had died some, but the cold was moving in. After Ralph hit a decent shot on 17, somehow I hit one on the green. Another makeable birdie putt, at least for most people. Unfortunately, I hit another shorty and wound up with a par.

After 17 holes, I had finally beat Ralph on a hole! I had honors! I avoided looking at Ralph, fearing he might catch me gloating. I yanked a drive way left but luckily there was a big pile of gunk that kept the ball from going out of bounds. A nice iron shot that caught a tree and settled the ball in more mud before it could bounce into a pond. I absolutely somehow killed a 4-iron and wound up in the fairway!

I air-mailed the green once again, chipped rather embarrassingly halfway to the pin, two putted and the day was over.

But it was a nice day!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A fashion faux pas

Through the years, I have seen some uniforms I really like and others…well, old Craig wasn’t real fond of.

Even as a young Craigger, the old Oakland A’s uniforms were wrong. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ unis were bad. The Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates outfits made me go “ugh!”

The old Chicago White Sox gigs with the short pants were upsetting to my stomach. I had to change the channel earlier this season when the Denver Broncos wore throwback uniforms…TWICE! Egad!

The old Denver Nuggets needed a new style back in the old days, but their new ones aren’t much better.

Yes, I thought I had seen the worst of uniforms. Until Tuesday that is.

It was a simple high school game, much like so many before, at least I thought, until walking into Howe’s gym.

Then…I saw it. Down at the other end of the court! I thought something had to be wrong with my eyes. It looked like a bunch of old barber poles. But it wasn’t. McCurtain’s girls were wearing…Where’s Waldo? socks!

I kid you not. See the accompanying picture for verification.

I asked one of the Howe coaches if they would be copying the socks. He looked at me like I had escaped from Vinita and I needed a return ticket in the worst way. “I don’t think so,” he finally said.

The socks weren’t merely bad. They were dreadful! I wondered who came up with the idea of the Where’s Waldo? socks. Was it the coach as penalty for having a bad practice or losing to somebody they should have defeated?

Did the players actually like them? Maybe whoever they bought the uniforms from messed up the order. Or, really messed up the order.

I know, I should have investigated more. But from a guy who doesn’t even like seeing basketball players wear black socks, and a person who REALLY does not care for old men wearing black socks with dress shoes and Bermuda shorts, it was almost more than I could take.

The first few trips down the court, I was so focused on the yucky socks I couldn’t pay attention to the game. I didn't snap a half-decent picture until the second quarter! Maybe that was what happened with Howe. The Lady Lions were actually behind at halftime!

I blame it on the socks. I can just imagine the girls sitting around at halftime shaming each other: “My gosh!” my imaginary conversion went, “we’re losing to a team wearing Where’s Waldo? socks!”

Perhaps the shock over McCurtain’s socks finally wore off. Howe overcame the fashion faux pas (Yep, I had to look that spelling up!) blunder of the opponents and started playing basketball.

Now, I must point out there was nothing wrong with the rest of the McCurtain uniforms. But the socks…I still shiver.

Finally, the game ended and it was time for the boys. Shortly before the teams took the court, I had a dreadful thought. “Oh - - - -!” I thought, or something to that effect, “surely McCurtain’s boys won’t wear the same kind of socks!”

Fortunately, they didn’t. They wore the yucky black ones. But on this night, I didn't even complain about that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The eye of the Tiger(s)

It will be another over the mountains and through the woods trip on Friday night to Talihina.

The Tigers are only county team still playing football and it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t turn in the pads for a little longer.

Yes, Commerce will be a test Friday. But if Talihina plays this week like it did last week, I would not want to be a Commerce player.

I think Talihina will win again Friday. No, I have not seen Commerce play, but I have seen Talihina play twice and I am more impressed now than I was after the 27-8 win over Central Sallisaw earlier in the year.

The Tigers are not flashy and they are not overly big. They just play football the way it should be played.

Rough, tough and physical. Talihina’s players will knock the stuffing out of the opponents and instead of taunting the stricken player, go look for another player to hit.

A case in point: I believe it was on a Wynnewood punt last week. Talihina’s James Brigance found one of the Savages looking the other way and delivered a hit that could be heard in the stands.

The Wynnewood player was shaken up, understandably so. But none of the Tigers did any high-fives or wasted time taunting, they were too busy looking for somebody else to hit.

After the player was able to stand, the players and fans clapped. I must admit there was a loud “ooh” coming from quite a few people after the hit, even the Wynnewood side.

Talihina lines up in the old Power-I most of the time on offense, but have added a few other tricks since earlier in the season. But the Tigers win by running the ball, and they do that by blocking with a passion I have rarely seen over the last few years.

Wynnewood knew what was coming, just like the 10 teams before it, but did not have much luck stopping Talihina. The Savages kept bringing their defense closer and closer, but the Tigers made them pay by breaking big runs and also hitting a few long passes just to keep Wynnewood’s defense honest.

When the teams were warming up, I watched Wynnewood and thought the Savages might give Talihina a game. The Savages had some size and athletes, but after a couple of series, it was obvious Talihina were going to win and probably pretty bad.

That brief pounding took a lot of steam from the Wynnewood players, coaches and fans. And I don’t blame them. I can just imagine them thinking that they drove 150 miles down two-lane roads to get hammered like that. While many of the teams throughout the state have gone to a spread passing game and rely more on finesse, that is not what teams get when they face Talihina.

It is football the way it used to be played, only better for Talihina because other teams are not used to getting battered and bloodied by an opponent.

I don’t know how far Talihina will go in the playoffs or if the Tigers can win a state championship. There are four teams ranked above them and the Tigers have a long way to go, but I do know that if somebody does beat Talihina, they will know they were in a football game.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Only the good die young...and old

This has been a rather sad day.

Perhaps at the age of 46, I should be immune to the emotions of people dying.

But I’m not. One of the first things I found out today was one of my old football coaches, Bob Riley, had passed away.

Then a little later, I got a text telling me Ben Dittrich had died in Canada.

Not a good way to start the day. Riley was one-of-a-kind. Think of old-time football coaches and that is what he was.

He knew one way to coach and to be as a person. You always knew where you stood with him. Two faced, not a chance?

Not only did you know what he was thinking, Riley never had trouble letting you know.

He would stand there with his hands on his hips, a little tobacco on his lips and chin, and tell you, usually a little louder than was necessary to hear his message.

Yes, he was a coach, but also a defensive coach. Tough as nails. I can just imagine his thoughts about the modern offense with all the passing. Our old 4-4 defense might have had some problems with it, but I also think opposing quarterbacks might have had a proble or two as he loved to take it to the offense.

The heck with the standing around and reading the offenses. Not with him. He wanted his defenses to get after it. Red-dog! I can’t remember how many times I heard that call.

That meant pretty much everybody was coming. It was primarily to stop the run, but was also known to harass a quarterback at times.

He didn’t like easy practices, that’s for sure. He made sure we were in shape and unless it was a game day or the day before a game, we ran. Two-hour practices? In our dreams.

Coach Riley wouldn’t make it in today’s world. No contact in practice? Uh, not hardly. We hit, hit some more and continued hitting until there wasn’t much hitting left in us.

When a player did not perform as he expected, that player would sometimes get a kick on the rear. Fortunately, I never received that practice. I am sure his old paddle with the holes strategically drilled in it met my back end a time or two, but I know I deserved it.

And he didn’t do it to be mean or to hurt somebody. He could chew you up one side and down the other. But then he would say something that would make you want to run through a wall for him.

We were blessed with good coaches, Coach Riley, as well. I have not seen him for years, but every time I talked with him after graduating school, he was always ready with a smile and a story remembering the days when he coached the old purple and gold.

Good-bye Coach Riley, you will be missed.

I did not know Ben Dittrich all that well. He was in Heavener for one year, a transfer student from Austria. But I remember well the first time I saw him, thinking that he looked like a good athlete.

He was, indeed. Playing on a team that was not very good that one season, Dittrich was worth the price of admission by himself. He was one of, if not the best athlete I have ever seen play for Heavener.

Dittrich was tall, but could fly. When he took off, he had the grace of an animal with his smooth stride. After his one year in Heavener, he was offered a scholarship to Arkansas Tech but chose to play football in Canada.

I never spoke a word to him, other than maybe telling him “good play”. But he fit in with his teammates, school and the community. And you could tell he was a good guy.

Like his college coach said in an article before Dittrich came to his college, they were losing. With Dittrich, they started winning.

Heavener did not win that one season, but Dittrich did his best. On the field and in life. Good-bye Ben Dittrich, you will also be missed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Honor them...

I did not storm the beaches at Iwo Jima.

I also did not face the horrors of Korea, fight in the jungles of Vietnam, do one thing to stop the spread of communism, break down the Berlin Wall or fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I have never faced down a person determined to kill me because his leader told him it was his job.

No, I consider myself lucky to have never been injured, lost a limb, died or known anybody who has died fighting for the military.

To tell the truth, I have never done a single thing to defend this country from enemies either on foreign soil or here in the United States.

I was glued to the television when the bombs hit Baghdad back in 1991. It was all fascinating, but I was more worried about our guys and girls.

I feel sad every time I read that one of our men or women has been killed or injured fighting for our country.

When I go to the cemetery, I always make my way around, noticing the headstones of those from Heavener who were in the service, especially those who died fighting in some foreign country.

There is Freddy Sonagerra, who lived across the street from my grandparents. He and Bill Elliott, my former superintendent’s brother, died in Vietnam.

I feel a sadness wash over my body when I see their graves or look at the list of people from Heavener who died fighting. There is a monument in front of the library. I see the names, but don’t know the faces. I can imagine the sadness the families felt when they found out they would never see their husband or son alive again. I can also imagine how proud they were, of those sons and husbands, willing to do something so many others were not brave enough to do.

I am also proud of them, along with all the others who served or are currently serving.

Their country called and they answered. Freddy and Bill did not want to die as young men, neither did any of the others. I feel like they died for you and me, trying to protect the people they knew, even people they didn’t know. They loved this country and everything it stands for.

So do the other veterans, or at least a large majority of them. Think of all the people who have defended this country from when the first settlers arrived. They have fought the British, French, Spanish, Mexico, fellow country men from a different part of the United States, the Germans, Italians, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, the Iraq military, terrorists in Afghanistan and many other places.

I never wanted to be in the military. It wasn’t cool back in my days, like any of us knew what was cool or for the best. I had friends who joined and no, I did not question their decision. They felt called to serve their country.

My time was an awkward era. Vietnam was still hanging over the country along with the hostages in Iran. This was all before Iraq and we still felt an innocence, never knowing or expecting crazy people would kill our citizens with bombs and by flying jets into towers.

Sometimes, I wonder what this country would be like if it wasn’t for the veterans and those serving now. Our country is not perfect. But consider what it would be like without our veterans. That would be scary.

On this day, when we honor our veterans, remember the sacrifices so many have made. And if you get the chance, thank them for all they have done and given up.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A little more about the Journal...

I have written blogs about the LeFlore County Journal before, and you might be tired of reading them.

But I try not to do them very often. Honest. There are a few things I would like to mention, though.

First point: We are up to 886 fans of the Journal on Facebook as of this afternoon. Wow, I wasn’t sure there were that many people who knew of the Journal.

There have been several people who have gone out of their way to invite friends. I know somebody’s name will be left out and I apologize, but Ralph Perdue Jr., Jerry Pitchford, Don Barnes and Lara Baggs have invited a bunch of people and many of them have responded.

So thanks to you and everybody else who has helped spread the word. And to those of you who have sent in pictures or information, a big thanks to you as well.

There are a lot of people who still don’t know about the Journal and any help you can give by spreading the word would be greatly appreciated.

Second point: It is a little different when people approach me now.

If I haven’t seen them recently, they ask: “Are you still at …” referring to my past employer who I will not mention here to keep them from receiving any free advertising.

“No, I haven’t been there since July,” I respond.

“What are you doing now?” they ask.

I tell them about the Journal, how it is a news and information web site for the county and all the stuff we offer on the web site.

They get a confused look about halfway through. “What else are you doing?” they ask.

“This is it.”

About that time, they beat a hasty retreat, looking at me like I had lost whatever intelligence I once possessed.

Then, whenever I approach somebody for information, the following conversation usually takes place.

“What newspaper are you with?” they ask.

“It’s not a newspaper,” I say, and have said so many times that I probably sound like a recording. I then go into the usual ad for the Journal da…da…da.

“Never heard of it,” they respond. I pull out a card and give it to them and say they should check it out.

Sometimes, they look at the card like it might have the N1H1 virus attached and germs are likely to jump on them and make them deathly ill.

Other times, they take the card and either check out the web site and hopefully like it, or pop it in the trash can as soon as I leave.

The next and final point: Most people I have talked with about the Journal are excited, or deserve an Oscar for the act they put on. Some have seen the potential that I see. Others think I have gone off the deep end.

I might have, but for the first time in my life, I am actually doing something I enjoy full time and with most of my energies. I actually put in more hours every week than I have ever done at any other job.

True, some of those hours are covering sporting events or talking with people, but that is still working. It’s only that I am doing something that I want to do. Nobody tells me I have to do this, or have to do that. I get lots of you should cover this or that, and I greatly appreciate the advice.

The popularity of the site has increased each week since it started in late September. I knew that it would take time, but it is growing faster than I hoped. I always figured it would take until basketball for the Journal to take off.

After all, when I cover a game at one of the smaller schools that doesn’t play football or have a weekly newspaper, they don’t get a lot of coverage. I went to Howe’s games with LeFlore last week and the number of fans on Facebook has gone up over 100.

Yes, I know a lot of people from Howe and have a lot of friends there, but most of them did not know anything about the Journal. Now, many of them do. And hopefully they and the rest of the county enjoy the Journal as much as I enjoy what I am doing.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It has been a good year...

Just wait one second!

It is Friday and the weather is good?

Isn’t that against the law or something? Well, maybe not. But for the last several weeks, every Friday has been cold or wet, or a combination of the two.

That means it will be nice at the football games tonight. Simply amazing.

As you know, the Journal has only been around since late September. We only started covering games the third week of the season, but it seems much longer than that.

I have enjoyed covering the games and everything that goes along with it. And I hope you have enjoyed the coverage.

I actually missed a game the first week of the season, but saw Heavener play at Union Christian the second week, although I didn’t cover it as the web site was not up and running.

The first high school game I covered this year was Mena at Poteau. It was a romp as several others were. The following week, I covered Panama at Spiro, which was closer than the final score of 26-0 indicates.

Week 5, I traveled the lonesome highway to Talihina to watch Central Sallisaw meet the Tigers in a battle of undefeated teams. No, it wasn’t close but was a fun game to watch.

The following week came the best game of the season. Poteau rallied late in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat Wagoner, 17-15. The winning points came on a two-point conversion run that put the Pirates ahead with less than two minutes left.

Poteau played at Sallisaw the following week, the most highly anticipated matchup of the regular season. Unfortunately, it did not live up to its billing as Sallisaw won going away.

I covered Poteau again the following week at home against Broken Bow. Another one-sided contest as Poteau’s offense and special teams faltered.

Week 9 was the only game some would consider an upset. Hartshorne came into its game with Spiro in a three-way tie for the district championship. But the Bulldogs’ defense posted one of the most impressive efforts of the season and won, 21-6.

Each week I try to cover the most important game in the county and the one I think has the most interest. The only requirement is it needs to be at a county school, aside from Poteau's game at Sallisaw.

There are still tonight’s games and hopefully at least two playoff games ahead, but I want to hand out a few awards from the games I covered.

We can call the awards the Craiggers, or whatever you want.

BEST GAME—without a doubt, Poteau 17, Wagoner 15.

BIGGEST SURPRISE—Spiro 21, Hartshorne 6 (followed by Sallisaw 49, Poteau 7)

MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM—Talihina, easy. The Tigers are 9-0 overall, 8-0 in district play with seven shutouts. Talihina’s closest game was a 27-8 win over Central Sallisaw, another top 10 team in Class A.

BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE (by a county player in a game I covered)—Jordan Eagleroad in the win over Central. The Talihina junior rushed for 161 yards on 25 carries for two touchdowns, including one on an 81-yard run.

BEST TEAM DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE—Again, it was Spiro’s performance against a previously-potent Hartshorne team. The Miners only rushed for 35 yards and the only score was a 59-yard touchdown pass on the final play before halftime.

GUTTIEST PERFORMANCE--Poteau's defense in the loss to Broken Bow. Wait, how could a defense get an award in a game their team lost that bad? Easy. The Pirates were banged up on defense after the Sallisaw game, but played hard until the very end. Plus, Poteau's defense only gave up two touchdowns. The offense and special teams gave up four.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR--Hard to pick one here, but one player who has impressed me over the final part of the season was Poteau sophomore Wilson Klutts. After Britt Brown was slowed down by an injury, Klutts really picked up the slack. He was a receiver this year, but will probably move to quarterback to replace his brother next year.

BEST PLAYER--Yes, I know, he only plays for a Class A school, but Talihina's Eagleroad is a stud and could play for any county team. He is blazing fast, strong enough to break tackles and also outstanding on defense. The runner up would be either Garrett Klutts or Britt Brown, but I have to go with Eagleroad.

The only county teams I have not seen this year are Arkoma, Bokoshe and Pocola. Sorry, guys, maybe next year! Thanks to all of you for the memories.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A great idea...

I was talking to a friend the other day and he came up with one of the best ideas I had heard in a long time.

I can’t remember exactly what we were talking about, since it was guy talk (which is the exact opposite of women talk where every word and sentence is filed, categorized, dissected, and remembered for years to come).

Anyway, he had apparently said something that might not be politically correct by certain segments of the society and mentioned how nice it would be to have a “word filter”.

Bingo! That would be a great subject for a blog! It took a few days to get around to writing the blog as there were several previous blog ideas already floating around and I don’t let blog ideas cut to the front, unless I forget the previous ones or decide they are more boring than usual.

How nice would that be? I know, none of you have probably ever said anything you wished could be taken back.

Well, I have. I would pay serious money to be able to edit some of my comments. One I am really not proud of happened when I was working one of my previous jobs. A very nice man came into the office to see one of my associates (hey, how about bonus points for writing something that made me sound stuffy instead of saying some chick who also worked there?)

The person was in a wheelchair. I was kind and opened the door for him and led him back to the waiting area since the person was actually busy.

As we got to the waiting area, I said “She will be with you in just a minute. Just take a seat…”

I felt like somebody who had just passed gas in a crowded elevator (not that I have ever done that). Luckily, he smiled and said, “I already have one.”

Not one of my prouder moments. But just think…if I had a word filter (or make it filtering software), I could have edited that comment and not sounded like a complete idiot. A partial idiot, perhaps, but not a complete one.

And then there was the time I was talking to two guys at a conference. One person mentioned how tired he was of this particular women commenting about everything the instructor said. I failed to notice the new presence of somebody to my side, dratted poor peripheral vision!

“You mean the one with the big nose?” I said. The two others looked like they had seen Casper the Real Ghost. Yes, the big-nosed classmate had just entered our discussion. Fortunately, I never saw this person again after that day. But did receive enough glares that afternoon to last a lifetime.

That brings me to my favorite moment when a word filter could have come in extremely handy. I actually was not there or did not say this, just heard about it that day and many times since. No, I will not divulge any identities and you will soon find out why.

A group of golfers were coming up the last hole at Choctaw Country Club in Poteau. It was summer and there were people swimming in the pool and being a responsible organization, the country club had a lifeguard present to make sure none of the little kids went belly up.

This lifeguard was female and rather well built upstairs. One of the golfers, a young one, of course, happened to notice the lifeguard.

“My gosh,” he said, or something to that effect. “Would you look at that!” I believe he also mentioned the size of the lifeguard’s chest and like most guys, asked if anybody knew her.

There was a hushed moment until one member of his group said simply, “Yeah, that’s my daughter.”

A true story! One I am forever grateful that did not involve me and yes, a word filter would have certainly come in handy that day. Could it be a coincidence that the same person who suggested the idea of a word filter was the same person who mentioned the lifeguard? I think not.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Football the way it should be played

The football field was the same distance.

There were goal posts, a chain gang, fans, cheerleaders, coaches and players. Even officials (gasp, wearing black shorts and one wearing ref socks?).

The fans cheered and a few even let out a few boo’s (although they were mainly limited to the fans from the visiting side).

Before the game, the players ran through a spirit line that was just as enthusiastic as any you would see on Friday night. No bands, sorry, just the music from loudspeakers playing music way too loud.

The coaches coached and the players played. The officials watched for infractions, but thankfully let the players play for the most part. Players got wet and muddy, but nobody complained.

No, this wasn’t high school, junior varsity or even junior-high football being played at old Harvey Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was Arkansas Valley football, baby!

Football played by fourth and sixth graders. It was a playoff game but you won’t see the results in the regional or state newspapers. Media? Uh, sorry. Just me. See STORY.

But the stakes were high for these young boys and coaches. It was the first round of the playoffs. Winner moves on, losers call it a season.

On the home side were the mighty Heavener WolfPups, champions of the league in both grades. Ozark, which finished fourth in the other division, was the visitors and the Hillbillies came to play.

It was simply as much fun as I had at any game this season. I watched the action on the field, wrote down who scored and all that stuff, but spent most of the time watching the boys have a great time.

I really couldn’t tell who had more fun, the players playing or the kids on the sidelines, who taught me a few things about horseplay. Yes, they watched the game, but had fun when they weren’t playing.

That’s not to say the players on the field didn’t have fun. When the players did something good, they smiled and celebrated like their idols who play on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

They encouraged their teammates to do better and jumped around when something good happened.

The little cheerleaders tried their best to also offer encouragement. They led cheers and yelled at the appropriate times.

All the players tried to block and tackle like they had been coached. I must say, at times there was a little confusion about where to line up or what to do. But I have seen the same thing in every game I have watched this season, even those who get paid to play.

The officials helped the players and offered encouragement. As I mentioned earlier, they let the boys play for the most part and kept their hankies firmly tucked into their pockets.

None of the fans hollered insults at the other team or their coaches. Nobody wanted to see anybody hurt. Luckily, all the teams came through the afternoon with nobody hurt.

There were a couple of minor injuries. No, nobody taunted the injured player as he was on the ground or celebrated the injury.

When the guys scored touchdowns, they did not do anything to try and embarrass the opponents. They simply gave the ball to the officials and celebrated with their teammates and coaches.

The little WolfPups won both games and advanced to play again. The Hillbillies lost, but lined up and bravely shook the hands of their opponents.

As I left the stadium after the buzzer sounded for the last time, I wondered why all games weren’t played like this. I did not have an answer, but wished I did.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween ends soon!

Well, Halloween is here Saturday.

Duh? You say, or think. Hey, I wasn’t trying to break some big story or anything, that was my lead into a blog.

This is the day where everybody can dress up as ghouls, goblins or President Obama. As if.

Most businesses will let their workers do some kind of Halloween costume today. I rarely took advantage of this. It’s not that I am against Halloween, I’m not. I remember getting my share of Halloween goodies over the year. Great fun, huh?

Of course, back when I was a Halloweener (is that a word?), it was fairly safe. Nobody put razor blades in apples or gave away candy that was poisoned. We could safely go from neighborhood to neighborhood and not worry about get snatched by some crazy.

Now, most parents won’t allow their children to go next door without going with them. And back then, Halloween was not an excuse to egg houses or throw pumpkins at passing vehicles.

It is scary to drive through the better off neighborhoods. I’m not afraid of the decorations or costumes, just plowing into one of the little ones.

I flipped around the channels the other night and a good share of them had scary movies showing. Most of them are not scary. You want me to be scared? Force me to watch “Dancing with the Stars!”

Now that show raised goose bumps when I actually watched it one night. In the old days, I would probably be stoned and buried under heavy rocks.

Even Larry King is airing a special on ghosts. I don’t believe in ghosts, or vampires. I have never seen either, even though one television sometimes switches channels on its own.

I have watched some of the ghost hunters, or whatever they are called. Scare me? I don’t think so. Seeing Paula Abdul in HD? There should be a disclaimer or some kind of warning.

What about the movie “Twilight”? Weak, not the least bit scary. I just wanted them to get a tan. I am not into guys, of course, but why anybody would think the guy lead was attractive scares me.

I was in a video store the other night. Naturally, there was an entire section for horror movies. I didn’t rent one, but did look at some of the titles. Many of the videos advertised they were offering both the theatrical version and the UNRATED! version, promising parts that could not be shown in the theater.

I figure most of these movies went straight to the video store.

The economy? Finally, we found something truly scary.

Luckily, the Halloween madness ends Saturday night, just when the time changes and everybody shows up early for church or work.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almost time to hoop it up

Pardon me for being a little excited today.

I must state that I love high school football, even when the weather gets cold and wet. But I don’t like it as much as when the weather is good.

So now the weather is going south for the winter, it must mean basketball season is here. And it is, starting Monday.

Yes! I also love basketball. High school or college basketball, I enjoy both. I don’t really care for professional basketball until the playoffs start, the same as pro football and baseball.

But I simply dig basketball. No more standing out in the rain when the temperatures drive most sane people into a warm home. I have never gotten cold or wet at a basketball game. I have, of course, walking to and from a game, but never inside.

I have gotten a little warm a few times at a basketball game and sweated, but it still beats freezing.

That is why I am more than just a little pumped. Basketball is almost here! Carl Albert plays at home Monday, so does Howe.

Football fans, don’t fear. We will still cover football on Fridays and still provide the same coverage you have hopefully gotten used to seeing in the Journal. But now, there will be coverage of high-school basketball, hopefully lots of coverage.

That is if we get results from the games by coaches, fans, parents or whoever. I hope to have all the results from every game. That won’t happen, of course, but that is what I hope to see.

So you basketball coaches and fans, report your games. Let us know what happened and we will post information about the game. It is really simple, just send an email to craig@leflorecountyjournal.com if you can, or call. If you want to call, the number is listed in the contact information on the Journal or I will give it to you.

Instead of eight teams competing in football, there are 26 teams (counting boys and girls high schools) plus Carl Albert’s two teams.

We will have game coverage two or three nights a week and will cover Carl Albert. I have always felt Carl Albert did not get nearly as much coverage as it should. Hopefully this will change. The Vikings and Lady Vikings play good basketball and if you like hoops, go catch a game, or two, three or however many you can.

I would also appreciate if you spread the word about the Journal. A lot of people in the smaller towns, and many in the larger ones, aren’t aware of us yet. So any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Here is the LINK. All you have to do is click, copy the address and add it to emails to your friends.

This is your web site. I just manage it. So let everybody in the county and former residents know about the Journal. And provide me with information and photos from the basketball games and whatever else is going on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just wondering...

Okay, I was just wondering…

* When do I get my babyback ribs? When the liquor by the drink deal was passed a few months ago, the fine people of LeFlore County were led to believe it was a matter of letting people drink the hard stuff in a dining establishment and the big boys would come to the county.

Remember? Chili’s, Applebee’s, etc. Hey, I want my babyback ribs? Where are they? Is it because the economy is struggling or was there ever any indication the larger chains would consider coming to LeFlore County or Poteau?

But hey, we are getting a Holiday-Inn Express (insert your lame Holiday-Inn Express joke here, like I did in yesterday's blog).

Hmmm, my inquiring mind wants to know.

* What’s the status of the county tournament? Mainly, where will it be played this January? I have not heard anything lately, so if you know the scoop, let me know.

From the people I have talked with, playing at UAFS was a great experience for the fans and the players. It was first-class. Nobody had to stand in the end zones and smell the body odor of everybody within 10 feet of them.

Now, I have not heard how crazy the fans of Talihina were about this. As you know, Talihina is not just a hop, skit and a jump to the Fort. That is a long trip. And since the Talihina boys are likely to be playing in the finals, I am sure they are interested in this.

But you also have to look at tradition. The county tournament was played at Carl Albert for so long that fathers and sons have shared that experience. But Carl Albert lost some seating during a renovation last year and is not big enough to handle the crowds, not that it was before.

One coach expressed some fear that the host school from now on would host the finals. Uh, I have no problems with small schools and tiny gyms, but is that the best for our county tournament, probably the best in the state? I think not.

The best thing that could have happened was Poteau building a civic center big enough to host the county, area and regional tournaments, but…Now, if the county tournament is played in Fort Smith, just think how much sales tax money is going across the state line.

*It has not been a good year for the county football teams. Only three teams from the county will probably make the playoffs and only one (Talihina) will get to play at home in the first round of the playoffs.

Is there hope for the future? Poteau has some good talent in the seventh and eighth grades. Heavener is looking good in the younger grades while Talihina will be loaded again next year.

Spiro also has some good young talent. But will next year be better? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Change isn't always for the best

I do not like to complain, honest.

You can call me old fashioned, out of touch, or Craig (since that’s my name).

I am not an offensive coordinator and did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

So I will state that I am not an expert when it comes to football, although I have watched games since I was a little Craigman and did play. I will also say I am all in favor of change, when it is good. But one change I do not care for is the spread offense in football.

Give me the old wing-T, wishbone, veer or power-I any time. Or if a team runs the spread, at least make running the ball the main emphasis.

Yes, there are teams that run the spread very well with passing the main emphasis. But for most teams, it just doesn’t work that great. First off, most high-school quarterbacks don’t have the arm to make all the necessary throws or make the correct reads. Pass blocking is much more difficult than run blocking, especially with all the stunts and blitzes the nasty defensive coordinators throw into the mix.

Plus, for many schools, it is difficult enough to get enough receivers to run the offense and actually catch a pass thrown their way.

This is not a complaint about any school in particular. So do not take it that way.

I’m just old school enough to think for most teams, especially the smaller schools, they need to be able to run the ball. If they are balanced, it is even better.

The best team I have seen this year is Sallisaw. The Diamonds can hurt you either running the ball or passing. Yes, they do operate out of the spread. But they can run or pass, and you never know what is coming. Plus they are physical and block and tackle with a passion. It seems like many teams that use a pass-first offense are not as physical as some teams.

Over the last few weeks, the weather has not been great. It has been cool, wet, or a combination of the two. When that happens, it is tougher to throw and catch passes. Of course, usually when teams play late in the season or in the playoffs, the weather is bad, thus making the passing game difficult.

I enjoyed watching Talihina and Central Sallisaw play a few weeks ago. That was a Craig-kinda game. Total passes in the first quarter? One. It took 15 minutes to play the first quarter!

I was home from Talihina before Heavener’s game that night was even over! The two teams lined up and tried to knock the stuffing out of each other. Does Talihina have a sophisticated passing attack? Not really. Do the Tigers throw the ball on third-and-two? Uh, I don't think so.

They are not the typical ball-control team, though, because their backs have the speed to break the long runs. There will be a game when Talihina plays a team that crowds the line without worrying about giving up the big run and force the Tigers to pass the ball.

That will be the big test for them. But would Talihina worry about playing in 20 degree temperature with the field wet and muddy? Nope.

So I do like Talihina’s style. But I also enjoyed watching Sallisaw and Broken Bow last week. The Savages lined up in the I-formation and ran the ball. But Broken Bow could also pass the ball okay. Not great, but good enough to keep the defense honest. Was Broken Bow physical? Yes, without a doubt.

Like I mentioned earlier, I will never be an offensive coordinator. But if you look at the teams in college that win the big games, those are the teams with balanced offenses.

Look at Florida and USC, probably the most successful programs of the past 10 years. Both teams have good passing attacks, but can run the ball. Oklahoma has had great offenses, but struggled in bowl games with the break between the end of the season and the bowl game giving defensive coordinators extra time to prepare.

This year, the two best college teams are Florida and Alabama. Both teams can run the ball and pass. Would you consider either team soft? I wouldn't. Do pro teams run the spread? Nope, except for using the Wildcat, which is primarily for running or the shotgun, when they face third-and-long.