Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weather or not...

After hearing dire predictions on the weather for close to a week, I survived. Hopefully so did you, or, of course, you would not be reading this.

Eek! Up to an inch of ice followed by even more sleet (isn’t sleet ice?) and seven or eight inches of snow! That’s what we were told and threatened.

Stores couldn’t keep generators in stock! Ice and sleet and snow, oh my!


As usual, the weather wasn’t as bad as we were warned. I am thankful to Garrett and all the others who spent extra time telling us what could happen, don’t get me wrong. Unless, like, you want to.

But hey, didn’t we go a little overboard here? And no, I’m not talking about the Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn movie, as if.

All day Friday, the local? weather channels, which to me is only the Channel 5, the stations in NW Arkansas aren’t local, showed us the REAL conditions, like we couldn’t see for ourselves. Darren Bobb would send us out to one of the reporters stationed at the mall or driving around and OH MY GOODNESS! It was snowing.

Yep, looked like any other snow I have seen, only without the yellowish snow from where dogs and people have done their bidness. Apparently all the reporters were stationed in various locales to show the current situation.

Okay, that one looks like it does here. Hey, that one has snow! So does that one and the other one!

The ones that rather irritated me are the Icamera, or whatever they called it. Whoa, reporters were driving around showing what the weather was like to be driving around in! Hey, didn’t the weather service say not to drive around unless it was an emergency? And look, there is a car off the road. Yes, there is another one.

All the while I was wondering more if that was Darren’s real hair or the dreaded toupee.

I did have to brave the weather conditions, of course. I drove to Poteau and (drum roll please!) around Poteau! Yes, there was snow! Yes, there was ice! I got there before the heavy stuff was really going on, but the Gene Machine, the truck I drive, did rather well. My girlish friend was ill and I was summoned to run errands.

The cautious Craig said “No way!” The caring Craig said, “Of course, dear!” (Not that I have ever addressed anybody as “dear” unless it was the start of a letter). The guy Craig said, “YES!”

Sorry, but it is a guy thing. We have to face the conditions and conquer them to prove our manliness and dumbness. I drove the chickmobile, since I figured it would be better than driving the Gene Machine. The road conditions had ice and snow! Just like they did on television. Did some sliding, nothing grand or the way my bud Terry Earls used to tear up his car downtown or in the medical center parking lot.

I had to go to Walmart. Ugh. But it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t late so the freakazoids had not arrived, just a bunch of guys strutting their stuff for driving in the ice and snow. Along with some women, kids and the workers. After that, I slid down to the Pizza Hut to pick up a sandwich, cause that’s the kind of a guy I am. Not for me, but for my special someone. Apparently only Wally’s and Pizza Hut were open, although neither were exactly doing some brisk business.

She lives up on a hill and I tried two different roads to arrive, but failed. Argh! No four-wheel drive! Of course, you only need four-wheel drive approximately once every three years, so I don’t really see the need. But I had to park at a business down the hill and hoof it up a hill, a steep one!

I was cold. I was snowy, if a person can be snowy, and wearing running shoes. I know, nice planning Craig! Why, thank you! But I arrived back at her house and it looked just like it did on the news. I looked for a reporter but they were only concerned with the Arkansas places, as usual.

And then on Saturday, I drove again! Yeah, I was a stud. I wanted to run into somebody so I could brag about my studliness, but they were all home. I thought about calling, but my bravado had died once I got to Heavener as I knew complete focus was needed since many of the drivers had probably 1. Never seen snow or ice before; and 2. had probably never driven in said conditions.

I creeped along slowly, hoping to not meet any traffic. Success! I saw a few people making snow something or the others. One was using a bucket and building what looked like a snow tower. I did test the snow in case I needed to snowball somebody, but the snow was weak.

And that is my story, and I’m sticking to it, unless…

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the union and more

A rather lame day yesterday, complete with a slight tummy virus!

I did drive across town without getting plowed by a Toyota car, truck or minivan, which is good. I was on high alert as I crossed the highway, vigilant in observing any Toyota vehicle!

I thought I saw one, but it was a Nissan. I breathed much better. No stuck accelerator! Fact is, I was more concerned with vehicles that had previously been involved in an accident and had never bothered to get it fixed.

Latest prediction says the ice storm will be worse in LeFlore County than was predicted last night.

Great. We need another ice storm, as if. A lot of the damage from the 2000 ice storm still exists. Yes, I remember that one well. I stood out on the back deck and listened as limbs from pine trees snapped, sounding like somebody was shooting a shotgun back in the woods.

I never lost electricity from the 2000 ice storm, but a lot of people did. All I lost was, gasp, the cable! Ugh. And the bill was not adjusted for the week or so without cable. Yes, I asked. No, I was told in that familiar customer service response.

Speaking of customer service, had to call a certain electrical company that services much of LeFlore County about a bill. First off, the number they gave me was not the one I needed.

The wrong number kept me on the line for approximately 10 minutes and I had to go through the typical crud like whether I spoke English or Spanish. Then I had to enter my account number, name, length of hair on my back and finally I quit replying and got to talk to a person.

I was then informed that I had to call another number. After the same junk as I did before, I was told to leave a message and the call would be returned promptly. It has now been approximately 22 hours and no call. I don’t consider that promptly.

Finally, I skipped the state of the union address last night, otherwise known as the President Obama pep rally. I am surprised they did not dim the lights and use a spotlight as he approached the pedestal as he high-fived all the cronies.

I did see enough to make me watch a basketball game instead. I have never figured out why it is necessary to clap, stand and whoop and holler after every statement.

I think he could have mentioned that he needed to go No. 1 and the crowd would have roared, aside from the Supreme Court justices, who looked like they wanted to take a nap.

Good thing there wasn’t anything on television that I missed last night. 24 was on Monday night and that is about the only regular show I watch on television. I am skipping American Idol this year, just because of Paula. Ha ha, as if. I actually watched Idol last year, realized how much of my life I had wasted and vowed not to watch it this year.

Rachel Ray just said Brendan Frazier, who is a guest on her show this morning, is known for the diversity of his work. Uh, right. He should have stuck with Encino Man.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Moon halo and more?

Things are getting back to normal around the old Journal as the LCT hangover fades away.

Yep, covered 20 games during the LCT last week. Four games a day times five (I took Wednesday off for the consolation games to rest my aching back and old knees).

I was close to being basketball’d out (notice basketball’d is not an actual word). After watching four games a day, it seemed like I was watching something on the DVR on Tuesday as I only saw two games. My, but it went by almost as fast as shows do when I can skip through the commercials and halftime stuff.

After the game was over, I was alerted to a halo (not the game, a halo) around the moon. I found this interesting and wondered how many people would see this as a sign for some end of the world crud or that…never mind. That would have been rude and we’re all about not being rude on this here blog!

Several people suggested that I take a picture of the halo. I tried, but it wasn’t light enough to show up. I looked up moon halo as a public service and found the following information:

The familiar 22° halo around the Sun or Moon occurs because of refraction in tiny hexagonal ice crystals in the air. With the 60° apex angle of the prism formed by extending the sides of the crystal and the index of refraction of ice (n=1.31) one can calculate the angle of minium deviation to be 21.84°.

I did not know that! Who says reading my blog isn’t educational?

Anyway, it was rather cool, but it was also cool outside and I did not spend near the time I would admire it longer if it was a balmy 60 degrees, but then I don’t think the halo would have appeared.

It is now time to switch subjects. We need to figure out how to get a gym like the Stubblefield Center in LeFlore County. Of course, it would have to pay for itself, but in addition to the county tournament, it could host district tournaments, regionals and areas, plus concerts, graduations, etc.

Prior to actually attending a game there, I was not in favor of the LeFlore County Tournament being played gasp, out of LeFlore County. But for the players and fans, it was a big-time environment.

I do hate the money leaving the county to be spent in Arkansas. But until we get something similar in the county, the semifinals and finals should be played there. There were record crowds on Saturday with over 2,600 for the girls’ finals and 2,800 for the boys.

We used to cram the fans in at CASC’s gym, but never got close to this number. Plus everybody had a seat during the past two years, at least those who chose to sit, and it didn’t feel like a bunch of sardines crammed together in a can and was a nice and cool environment.

Short of playing in the big house at the state tournament, nothing I have seen has topped this environment. I worry that Spiro will try to hold the finals in its new gym next year.

Spiro’s gym is awesome, but can only seat 1,500 unless some portable bleachers are arranged on the stage at one end. If they can seat 1,800, that would still be 1,000 less than attended the finals this year. Hmm, 1,000 times $5 a pop equals $5,000.

Sure, the rent on the Stubblefield Center is $1,000 a day, but that is still a loss of $4,000.

Enough for today. As Spock the sharp-eared one used to say, “Live Long and Prosper”!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

County tournament blog!

Well, here we are. The final day of the LeFlore County Tournament. I will update this blog throughout the day so check back often.

We're here at the Stub (what I call the Stubblefield Center). Drivers can relax, I arrived here safely and did not cause any wrecks, collisions or fender benders.

The third-place game between Poteau and Pocola is just tipping off.

Normally, a third-place game is sort of like pulling teeth. Hopefully it won't be like that today.

Good seats ARE still available! Another update soon.

It is now 2:46 and 31 seconds left in the first quarter. Half of the lights in the Stub just went out and there is a delay while we wait for the lights to come back.

The score is tied at 6 so the basketball has not been the best. I always thought playing in a third-place game would be like pulling a tooth. Not that I ever played in a third-place game, but nobody wants to be playing in this game and that is how both teams are playing.

Neither coaches have been thrilled with the officiating so far. Lights still out! Another update soon.

Now 2:57 play has resumed but the lights are still off. Some confusion on which end the players are going to play on. It is a little darker down at the one end, but still light enough to play.

Meagan Severe hit a 3 at the buzzer to give Pocola a 9-6 lead after one quarter. Teams have switched ends?

Updated 3:12

The lights are back on. Almost halftime, Pocola leads 20-16. As you can probably tell by the score, this has not been an offensive explosion by either team.

One of the Lady Indians shot a few minutes ago just behind the free-throw line and hit the top of the backboard.

Just talked to Heavener boys coach Scott Gregory and he said Brandon Kirkland is here today and rode the team bus. Kirkland will likely have surgery on Monday for his broken collarbone.

The Pocola cheerleaders, who are dressed in black for some reason, are throwing tee-shirts into the stands. Sadly, they did not throw any in my direction.

Okay, we are at halftime. Pocola leads, 20-18. The music is loud, bad and giving me a headache. Just thought you would like to know that.

Hmm, I think it might be time to check out the old hospitality room. Arkoma has done a good job putting on the tournament and providing an impressive spread for the hospitality room.

Speaking of food, it is a good thing I don't cover games here all the time. I'd weight three bills and be poorer than I already am. The hot dogs are smoking! Best I have had in a while, unfortunately they cost $3!




Second half about to start. Forgot to mention, Courtney Allison has three fouls for Poteau in the first half but is playing. Whoa, first shot was good by Jodi Meier and the game is tied.

If you have any questions, please send a text to 918-649-4712 and I will answer.


End of third. Pocola scored last six points to take a 34-31 lead. Pocola, which was 9-30 on free throws Thursday in the loss to Heavener, is 14-22 midway through the third quarter.

Speaking of Pocola, sophomore Taylor Martindale will be a great player. Martindale, along with Chelsea Baggs and Meagan Brown of Howe are impressive players as sophomores.\\



Pocola won the third-place game for the girls, 52-44. Martindale and Meagan Severe each scored 14 for Pocola. Addie Guthrie led Poteau with 15.

Talked to Brandon Kirkland. He is at the game with his left arm in a sling. He said he was not aware of the injury after the collision with Taggart Lockhart. Kirkland went back down the court, touched his shoulder and felt the bone sticking out.

He will have the operation this week and will hopefully be back in time for baseball.



Midway through the first quarter, Poteau leads Heavener, 15-2, and it is obvious that the Wolves are struggling without Kirkland. Poteau, meanwhile, is not suffering any hangovers from the last-minute loss to Spiro last night.

I am going to write more about it later in the week, but the Stub is an awesome facility for basketball. It holds 3,100 and there isn’t a bad seat in the place.

Before I got to experience a game in this environment, I wished there was some way the tournament finals could return to CASC.

This is just way too good, though. Nobody has to stand in the baseline and it is plenty cool, nothing like CASC is when the gym is packed.


It is halftime and it is not looking good for Heavener. The Wolves trail Poteau 48-23 and it is obvious they want to get through with this game and get reorganized next week in practice.

For some reason, unlike the rest of the week, the early games today were scheduled at 2:30 and 4 p.m., instead of 4 and 5:30. That means there will be an hour and a half break between the third-place games and the ones tonight.

The Stub will be emptied in between, I guess to clean the place, not like it needs a whole lot of cleaning with the smallish crowd in here today.

I noticed the jacket of the officials said Arkansas Officials Association. I have no problem with bringing in different officials for the tournament, but was surprised to see the officials for the afternoon game were out of Arkansas.



The showdown between Heavener and Howe is only 24 minutes away. Howe is dressed in red while the Lady Wolves are in their home uniforms.

The crowd is starting to flood into the Stub. Looks like there will be a bigger crowd here tonight than there was for the semifinals last night.

All the lights aside from one came back on and there have not been any other problems.

Looks like the whole county is represented here tonight. There are plenty of people from Heavener and Howe here, of course, but there are also fans from Wister, Cameron, Pocola, Poteau, LeFlore and everywhere else.

Looks like both games should be good ones

Friday, January 22, 2010

Poteau girls show heart

Nobody likes to lose on a basketball court or in life.

Sometimes, though, you find more about a person or a team when it is going through adversity.

That is the case for the Poteau girls basketball team. The Lady Pirates entered the county tournament with only two wins and few people expected them to do much this week.

In the first round, the sixth-seeded Lady Pirates barely survived a first-round game against little Whitesboro.

Next up was third-seeded LeFlore. Another close game, but Poteau clawed and scratched its way to advance to the semifinals against Howe, the two-time defending champions which was undefeated on the season.

Earlier in the month, Howe had downed the Lady Pirates fairly easily in a game at Poteau.

So the odds were definitely stacked against Poteau.

Not many people gave the Lady Pirates a chance. In the earlier game, Howe jumped out to a huge lead but Poteau played fairly even over the last three quarters.

This time, Poteau kept the game close. The Lady Pirates spread the court on offense and showed good patience. On defense, Poteau packed the defense to try and slow down Howe’s powerful inside game.

Every time Howe landed a punch, the Lady Pirates hit right back. It didn’t take long to realize this was a different game and a different team.

Howe led 10-9 at the end of the first quarter before Poteau rallied to take a lead at halftime. The lead grew to seven early in the third quarter before Howe rallied.

The Lady Lions eventually grabbed a 33-28 lead in the fourth quarter. Poteau had given a great effort, but the Lady Pirates were hanging on to the end of a long rope.

But Poteau was not through. Behind two threes by Courtney Allison, who had picked up her fourth foul in the first half, the Lady Pirates tied the game with 3:12 left.

Howe bounced back and Allison, who led all scorers with 19 points fouled out with just over a minute remaining.

The Lady Lions still could not shake the determined Lady Pirates. In the last seconds, Poteau had a chance to tie the score but it wasn’t meant to be. Howe’s Chelsea Baggs hit a clinching free throw and the game was over.

Poteau’s outstanding effort was not rewarded with a win. The loss hurt and there were some tears from the players wearing the white uniforms on this night. But while the scoreboard read Howe 40, Poteau 36, there were no losers on this memorable night.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My county tournament days

It was some 29 years ago that I retired from competitive sports.

That marked the end of my high school days at old Heavener High School.

Like thousands before and after, I played in the LeFlore County Tournament, not that well, but I did play.

I was part of Heavener teams that competed three years. Well, actually two. We didn’t compete all that well my junior year but I will get to that later.

As a sophomore, I was part of the Rest of the Wolves, buried deep down the bench, called upon only in case of serious foul troubles or because of a blowout.

We had a pretty good team that year with lots of seniors garnering most of the playing time. For the Rest of the Wolves, we found ways to entertain ourselves on the bench such as chatting with cheerleaders for the opposing teams, slapping towels on the ground at inopportune times, rattling the bench by...never mind, and being a thorn in our coach’s side for the most part.

During my three years, we were never one of the teams that drew a bye in the first round. My sophomore year, we played Whitesboro at CASC. It has been way too long to remember scores but it must have been a blowout because I remember playing in the game and we won!

Next up was Poteau, also at CASC. It was a fairly competitive game (since I remember not playing), but we lost. I would like to think things would have been different if I had been summoned off the bench and they probably would have been. The game wouldn't have been that close!

That Poteau team played Spiro in the finals and lost, 71-57.

Ah, my junior year was next, as if. Frankly, we stunk that year. No, we did. No seniors, only juniors and sophomores. Heavener was the host school that year, which made no sense as we were opening the new gym the following year.

Again, Poteau! Not that it mattered who we played. We would have lost unless our opponent was some school for the blind and maimed, and unfortunately no such school competed in the county tournament. We were beaten badly, which came as no surprise. However, the unmighty Wolves did win one game that year!

That Poteau team did win the championship that year by beating Spiro. Somehow, I like to think our competitive effort spurred the Pirates on to the win, but in all likelihood, it was the fresh legs from not having to play too hard to beat us.

And next, of course, was my senior year. We were decent that year, which made sense as everybody was back and we had some good sophomores.

Our first game that year was at Pocola against, uh, Pocola. No, the seeding people were not kind to us. It was a late game against a team that ripped us earlier in the season.

Somehow, we won. Don’t ask me how or why, but the Wolves won! Did we get a break the next night?

Uh, no. Our next opponent was Spiro, fresh off a bye while we were both brain dead and leg dead from playing the late game the previous night. We stayed close to Spiro, not that it mattered in the end. It was actually the closest we played Spiro in my glory days.

And yes, that Spiro team did win the county championship that year over Poteau, 48-26.

There was no losers’ bracket back in those days. You lost and you were done. So overall, our record while playing in the county tournament was 2-3.

Not bad, but certainly not good enough to play in the big stage of the semifinals and finals.

It wasn’t until later that I realized what an honor it was to play in the county tournament. Sure, it would have been nice to walk off with the county championship, but there were always better teams in the way, just like it is and has been for so many before and after.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One great game

In the first two days of the 78th LeFlore County Tournament, there were already some good games.

On Tuesday night, there was a great game.

Heavener and Howe renewed their rivalry and it was like the Hatfields and the McCoys again.

Players, fans and coaches know and in many instances are friends with persons from the two towns located only five miles apart. Many of the residents work with each other and have known each other for decades. They even go to church together and would go out of their way to help each other in times of need.

But when the school with the red and white and the other featuring purple and gold meet inside a basketball gym, it is war. Howe fans hold up signs proclaiming their school to be the real HHS while Heavener fans carried around a stuffed Lion on a string.

When the two teams met Tuesday, there was an intensity and atmosphere lacking in 99.9 percent of all games. You could feel it inside the gym. This was a special night. Most of the county finals don’t find the players and fans this jacked.

The old (but refurbished) gym at CASC was packed. LTC organizers made a wise decision when they moved this game from Arkoma to CASC. There is no way Arkoma’s gym could hold this crowd.

Besides, a game of this magnitude needs to be played in the grand palace of basketball in LeFlore County, where so many county champions were crowned in years past and so many fans once played back in their glory days.

Howe is the smaller school, but basketball rules and there is a good tradition. Basketball at Heavener is important also. Plus, this was the LeFlore County Tournament. The winner gets to continue on toward a possible championship. The loser falls into the losers bracket, something nobody in these two communities want to see happen.

Plus, with no games scheduled between the two teams for the remainder of this year the winner gets bragging rights until the next time the two schools hook up.

Yes, there was a winner in Tuesday’s game. Heavener came from 12 points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime and then escape with a 78-73 win.

On this night, there was no loser, despite what the scoreboard might say. How could one team be considered a loser after its players put everything into winning and left every ounce of energy and emotion on the floor?

And make no mistake, this was the way high school basketball should be played. Both teams busted their tails from the opening tip until the final second faded off the scoreboard clock. They both wanted to win in the worst way, but there were no nasty incidents or dirty play.

The game got physical at times, but that is going to happen when you have two teams that put as much emphasis on stopping the other team as they do in scoring points.

There were big shots and exciting moments. The roar from the crowd only subsided during breaks from the action. There would be an eruption from the section containing the Howe fans followed shortly by a roar from the Heavener crowd.

Fans and players who played earlier stayed to watch this classic. Many players and fans from schools who played at other locations also dropped by to watch.

And the best thing is this might be Part 1. Heavener’s girls and Howe are the top two seeds in the girls’ bracket and could meet in the finals Saturday night at UAFS, although Pocola and Poteau have something to say about that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The case of the missing cell

I used to get along just fine without a cell phone.

I would like to think I could still do okay without a cell phone. But…

Just this week, I learned how much I rely on the old Motorola Razr, or however you say it. I forgot my phone at my favorite person’s house Wednesday night.

On my way home, I reached into my pocket and gasp! No phone! I am usually pretty good about taking care of the old phone. Other things, no comment. I knew where it was, but didn’t want to drive back to Poteau and get it.

I planned on going to Poteau Thursday morning and could get it then. I had to make a call that night, one I make several times a day but realized that I did not know the number.

It was programmed in my cell, of course. I had to search for the number on Facebook.

But I knew I would get my phone on Thursday! Wrong. I woke up Thursday at 3 as in the morning, el sicko. I won’t go into all the details, but let’s just say everything in my belly and probably some of the tummy lining was coming out both ends.

This kept on until around 8 or so. Apparently I had emptied all contents, or so I thought. I searched for my phone to make a call and realized no phone.

I wanted my phone. I needed my phone. Even though I am not a phone yapper. But I certainly did not feel like driving to get my phone. I was feeling bad enough I didn’t even get on the old laptop all day. This is unusual as I get on the old computer every day.

So I slept all day, wondering how my phone was doing, at least when I wasn’t snoozing. I felt silly for forgetting my phone and also for missing it. No, my phone isn’t fancy. It’s actually around four years old and no internet or fancy gadgets. I use it for calls and texts.

I felt a little better on Friday and actually did some work. No naps. Apparently sleeping approximately 16 hours the day before had solved my need for sleep.

Finally, I departed for Poteau on Friday. I got my phone! It was dead, of course. I plugged it in the charger and checked for all my texts and important phone calls. Hmm, no texts? Only two calls and a voice mail?

What the Marty (My Favorite Martin!) Hinds was going on. I had spent all this time worrying about missing calls and texts and this was it?

Ugh. We went out to eat and after leaving, I noticed a text. Yes, a text! Actually two tests, both from a buddy. She had also called (the two missed calls), but left no message so I planned to call back.

The texts indicated some alarm that I had not answered my phone or updated the web site as much as usual. She even called one of my best buds to make sure I was still alive. I texted back that I had been sick, but was alive and sorta well.

Shortly after, my buddy who had been texted, called to make sure I was not at Dowden’s. Apparently this is what it takes for me to get non-business calls. I assured him that I was okay, just had been sick (and spared the details). No kidnapping or foul play, aside from the illness.

I managed to keep up with my phone overnight and I even got some texts about basketball games last night.

And yes, this morning my phone was right where it should be on the nightstand next to my bed and no calls. Only one text from late telling me I had messed up a name in a story.

Oh well, life goes on. I got my cell right next to me on the desk. It has been quiet but stands ready to handle its business, assuming there is any business that needs taken care of.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gabe's Night

Gabe Neal probably won’t ever lead his team in scoring or rebounds.

His athletic skills aren’t quite as developed as his teammates. He does not start for the undefeated eighth-grade basketball team Gabe plays on.

Gabe actually does not get to play much.

What he is best at is inspiring his teammates and the other students at Pansy Kidd Middle School in Poteau.

On Saturday night, he sat and watched his teammates build up a big lead in the finals of the LeFlore County Junior High Tournament against Hodgen.

As the game wound down, coach Kyle Hardaway put Gabe in the game. We have all seen this before as players who seldom get to play get a chance but nothing happens.

His teammates gave the ball to Gabe the first time down the court and encouraged him to shoot. He did, from way outside. The crowd watched the ball with anticipation, hoping somehow the ball would find the target.

It didn’t, but his teammates and fans were still enjoying Gabe getting a chance to play. The next time down the court, Gabe set up outside the three-point line on the right side of the court.

His teammates made sure Gabe got another chance. He caught the ball, paused for just a second and let loose a shot that looked as good as his more talented teammates.

The basketball flew high and true toward the goal. Almost every eye in Carl Albert’s gym watched the flight of the ball. They realized there was a chance the ball could get close to the rim, but it would be too good if the ball actually went in.

Right? Wrong.

This time, the ball did go through the rim and through the net. The crowd roared, his teammates celebrated on the bench and the court. A great night for the Raiders suddenly was even better.

It was the loudest roar of the night, one that was certainly heard outside the gym.

Yes, it was almost too good to be true. Gabe got another chance but his shot was deflected, not that it mattered. Gabe made a basket he will remember forever.

Teammate Kendrick Hardaway won the MVP award for the tournament. Two other teammates, Jerrett Lowrimore and Jon Scott Sanders were named to the all-tournament team.

But after the game ended, the player who went to accept the plaque for the team championship was one Gabe Neal. His smile stretched from one ear to the other. On this night, he was an inspiration to all of us. For a brief moment, nobody worried about the recession, the frigid temperatures or whatever problems we all face.

And 10 or 20 years from now, when the other players remember winning the 2010 LeFlore County Junior High Championship, they might not remember the score or who the opponent was on that cold night. But they will remember Gabe and his night to shine.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The 'Big House'

For high school basketball players, they dream of making it to state and playing in Oklahoma City at the “Big House”

Few players ever get to experience that dream. For LeFlore County eighth graders, their version of the “Big House” is playing in the LeFlore County Junior High Tournament at Carl Albert.

Eight teams achieved that dream and got to the play at CASC in the semifinals of the tournament Friday.

Hodgen’s boys and girls, Arkoma’s girls, Talihina’s boys, Heavener’s girls, Spiro’s boys and both Poteau teams played before a large crowd that braved the freezing temperatures to experience an atmosphere that is hard to top for a bunch of seventh and eighth graders.

The play was a little sloppy at times, but the effort was as good as you would see at any high school games.

Scoring was also a little less, but that is also to be expected.

The evening started with Hodgen’s girls playing Arkoma. The players ranged from the tall to the short and everything in between. The game had the fans on the edge of their seats most of the time before the Lady Bulldogs pulled away at the end.

Next up was Hodgen’s boys facing Talihina. Surprisingly, Hodgen’s bench was bloated with players while the Tigers only dressed out seven players and three of the starters were seventh graders.

Hodgen’s boys capped a sweep as they held off the Tigers to advance to the finals.

The next game was between Heavener’s girls and Poteau. This one was as dramatic as any game you could hope to see. The teams swapped leads in the fourth quarter and featured a winning basket with only 10 seconds left and a potential winning or tying basket that missed at the buzzer before the Lady Raiders advanced.

Finally, Poteau’s boys played Spiro in a game featuring play that was as good or better than you will see at some high school contests.

The undefeated and powerful Poteau team had more than it could handle in the first half from a Spiro team that was super fast and athletic. In the second half, Poteau started edging in front and finally put away the Bulldogs.

Tonight is a matchup between the big (Poteau) and the small (Hodgen), a school that only goes to eighth grade.

Based on the play from Friday, Poteau should be the favorite. But you can’t count out the little guys as anything can happen at our “Big House”.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My mail!

Well, let’s take a look at the old mailbag!

As in email mailbag. Yes, I know, it is not actually a mailbag when it comes in via email, but it sounded good.

I have several email accounts, but only use two. So let’s go through the big two first!

Ready? Okay!

Whoa, 15 new females are available on Yahoo personals, just for me! Sorry, I have trouble with one, certainly not 15! I don’t know why I get these emails and usually delete them. I have taken a glance a time or two. There is a definite reason why some of these people are still looking for their soulmates.

I got an email from Runners World telling me how to run longer and faster! I would settle for being able to run without my knee swelling up like a grapefruit. I’ll pass.

Great! Nurses are wanted! I have nothing against nurses, even male nurses, but I don’t think I am cut out for working with catheters.

Hey, I can make money from the comfort of my own home! Oh, wait, I have to pay? I think not. DELETE.

A note from Facebook telling me a person I don’t really know well suggested I should become friends with a person I have never heard of. Shall I? I shan’t.

Some silly crud from people I know. I seldom check these unless they are on my approved list, meaning their emails are worth checking out. If it is one of those forward this on to 50 people and you will have a great blessing today, I pass.

Hmm, no email telling me how I can make body parts bigger or smaller. I guess they finally gave up.

An offer to check my credit score. I’ll pass.

A politician wants some money? Yeah, right.

A comment on a photo I posted! Yeah, they liked it.

An email telling me I spelled a person’s name wrong. Oops. It is corrected. I would blame this on spellcheck but it was my bad.

Well, I finally got through with my email. Now, I just have to check my texts…

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The age factor

I am not old. I tell myself this all the time, along with anybody else who might ask. Sometimes, my body agrees I am not that old. Other times, my body laughs.

Yes, I am 46 and as a child, I thought that was ancient, not that I ever thought of myself at this age. But I did think of others who were in their 40s as one step away from the funeral home.

I really don’t feel much older than I did when I was 35. I don’t look much older, just missing a whole lot of hair.

The only thing that bugs me is that it takes me longer to do some things and a whole lot longer to recover from doing things. I am lucky that I am healthy for my age and can do a lot of activities that I have always done.

I enjoy physical activities but pay for them for several days so there are some things I don’t do any more. Such as playing tackle football. I did this one four years ago on Jan. 1 and did not recover until my birthday in April. I could still deliver a hit! Fortunately everybody else who was playing had never played competitive football. Yes, I think my excellence had more to do with that fact.

The last time I played basketball, I took a fall and twisted something. I was still feeling that twist for a good six months.

The other night, I encountered ice on the ground. I used to not take a second thought, just plunged ahead. But I remembered slipping on ice a few years ago and having to make a trip to the emergency room for what felt like several broken ribs.

I have never liked heights and try to avoid ladders. But when forced to climb a ladder, my climb up and down are much longer than it used to be. And no, this is not because of the ladder falling down as I attempted to climb back down several years ago, leaving me stranded for much longer than I will admit.

I still like to take pictures and sit on the floor to get the best view at basketball games. I tend to be the only one who does that. Other photographers stand in the corner and try to get a picture. I have been stepped on, hit with the ball and bounced off of by players.

But I still do it and usually get a picture I like. My back, however, does not like sitting on gym floors and tells me about it for days.

I can also tell when the weather is going to change. No, I am not a weather person, but my knees, ankles and shoulders know way before Garrett Lewis says it is going to get cold.

I also forget things. Some of it is good (like boring conversations and reality television shows), but there are other things I would like to remember and not be reminded about. And no, I don't remember when I started losing my memory.

But it could get worse, and I am afraid it will.

Monday, January 4, 2010

How to ease the budget cuts

The recession is having a bad effect on most people, businesses and schools.

I see a lot of changes in the future for the schools, especially in athletics. With all the state schools facing budget cuts, athletics will not be spared.

While driving last night and not paying attention to the road, I started thinking about this and ways schools could cut some costs in athletics. This was brought on by the report that Pocola decided not to play in the eighth-grade county tournament because of the budget cuts.

Pocola’s decision has not been confirmed, this was just something I heard the other day.

Anyway, let’s look at how schools can cut costs. We will go over football first, since it is the most expensive, but does bring in the most revenue.

First off, get rid of the big districts. There isn’t any reason to have eight-team districts. Reduce the districts to four schools with only the top two getting into the playoffs.

That would be a natural for the county 2A schools. Talihina, Heavener, Panama and Pocola would be in the same district. The non-district schedule would be fairly easy to schedule also with Wilburton, Hartshorne, Stigler, Spiro, Vian, Central Sallisaw and several other similar sized schools fairly close.

Plus, in the playoffs, none of the schools would have a long trip in the first round. This district could play the district with Wilburton, Hartshorne, Antlers and Vian in the first round. First vs. second in both games. Yes, they probably would have played in the regular season but so what? This would also draw more fans than if a team had to travel 140 miles like Wynnewood did to play Talihina in the first round.

There would not be two classes in eight man. Arkoma and Bokoshe would be in a district with Gans and Keota. Easy call.

In 3A, Spiro, Stigler, Roland and Eufaula or Checotah.

Poteau’s four-team district would be the Pirates, Sallisaw, Muldrow and Stilwell. Still some long trips, but nothing too bad. If Stilwell needed to be sent north, then Broken Bow would take its place.

Some would say the non-district schedule would be tough to fill. Play an eight-game season instead. This would also cut costs and make scheduling easier. There would probably be some mismatches but it would also bring back some rivalries such as Poteau vs. Heavener and the Pirates vs. Spiro.

Bring in the mercy rule and it would make the mismatches not as bad.

In the playoffs, the district winner gets a home game. After that, all games are played at a neutral location. That way, two district winners wouldn’t play in the third round with one of those teams having to make a 240-mile trip like Talihina did when it played at Hennessey.

One other idea is to have a true eastern champion play the western champion. That might result in the two top teams playing each other in the semifinals, but it would reduce traveling costs.

Now, to basketball.

There is no reason more of the county schools don’t play each other. Heavener and Howe are five miles apart and do not play. Yes, there are some spirited fans among the two, but wouldn’t it be better for Heavener to play Howe instead of Whitesboro and Howe to play the Wolves instead of Battiest? I am not an expert but would predict there would be a larger crowd if Howe played at Heavener than Battiest at Howe.

Use the same districts in football with only the top two teams advancing to the playoffs. I like every team advancing to the playoffs, but there has to be some cuts. Also, the regular-season tournaments could be cut to two instead of three.

If there are enough teams, there could be classes for the schools that play football and one for those that don’t play football.

Also, make the postseason single elimination instead of double elimination. If a team loses, sorry, that’s the season. Plus the number of games in the regular season could be shortened.

For baseball, keep the same rules as in basketball except make all the district games two games of five innings instead of one seven-inning game. Top two teams make it out of the district and all post-season games single elimination.

I am sure this won’t ever happen, but it would definitely cut costs and maybe keep some schools playing sports instead of eliminating the sport.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The glass is half full..

It is now 2010 as you plainly realize.

Yes, that might be the worst lead ever for a blog. The second paragraph isn’t much better, but I’m working on it.

I was ready for a change of years. 2009 was not a good one for the old Craiggers but that is all I am going to write about it.

I am looking forward to a great 2010. I view the coming year just like all sport teams do entering a new season. I am undefeated and have not suffered any defeats.

Yep, I’m looking forward and not behind. That is the year that was, not my behind. The glass is half full, not half empty. I would rather the glass was full, since I am thirsty but I have to be realistic.

The Journal is now over three months old and continues to grow. A lot of the success is because of the readers, of course, and those who spread the word.

A lot of the new readers found the Journal because of the current readers who have been kind enough to tell others about the web site and I thank you.

Please continue.

This will be a big month. The county tournament is this month along with a bunch of big basketball games. Things have been a little slow over the Christmas break but that is fixing to change in a big way.

We have had a lot of people help by sending in stories, photographs and scores and hopefully this continues and grows. As you know, I am the only person with the Journal and it is impossible to cover everything and everybody and that is another way you can help.

I am looking forward to great things in the new year and glad to have you along for the ride.