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.