Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Should be a good year in basketball

The old oblong-shaped ball has been put away for the season and it is now time to turn our attention to basketball.

This should be another great year of basketball in the county, even better than last year.

Overall, most of the county teams should be better, at least for the boys. Many of the better girls from last year are now gone and the battle for the top girls team is wide open. But more about that shortly.

For the boys, there is once again one big powerhouse in Talihina with FOUR starters back off last year’s team which made it to the state finals before losing to Pawnee by one point in overtime.

I expect the Tigers to be back in Oklahoma City again, but this time it isn’t Pawnee Talihina will have to be worried about. Perennial power OKC Millwood has dropped to 2A and will be the Tigers’ biggest challenger.

In the battle for county’s finest, Talihina (#2 in 2A) will have some competition. Poteau should be better, especially after two of its better players are back. Last year, I expected Poteau to battle Talihina for the county title but the Pirates could never get past Spiro, losing all three times to the Bulldogs.

Spiro will once again be good, as usual, featuring a team once again that has more speed than any other one in the county.

Heavener is expected to be better with Koda Glover, one of the better shooters in the county, along with a standout class of sophomores and a starting lineup that will have three players at least 6-3.

Wister, Cameron and Arkoma are also improved and have a shot at going deep in the county tournament. Pocola lost most of its team from last year, as did Panama. Whitesboro is better while LeFlore and Bokoshe have both struggled.

For the girls, there are no clear-cut favorites. Howe (#16 in 2A) is undefeated and has to be considered the favorite with its deep bench and inside power, but Heavener (17th in 3A) has three starters back from a team which almost made the state tournament.

The Lady Wolves feature one of the best players in the county in Skylar Cooper and enough returners to face up to any team in the county.

Poteau and Spiro will be improved with most of its team back and playing under new coaches. Taylor Martindale is apparently sitting out the season at Pocola, a definite setback to the young Lady Indians.

Panama lost some key players from last year, while among the small schools, Bokoshe is ranked in the top 10 and Whitesboro has only one loss, to top-ranked Red Oak and is 16th in Class B.

Wister and Talihina have most of its team back and should be greatly improved. Cameron, Arkoma and LeFlore have struggled so far, but all three teams should improve throughout the season.

The bigger schools are tipping off this week, so get ready for a long, but good season of basketball in the county

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The official TU vs. Rice blog!

On Saturday, the one and only Coach Andy Perdue and I made our way to Tulsa to watch the Golden Hurricane play Rice.

This was the first college game I have been at in some 15 years as my preferred method of watching college football is sprawled out on the old coach since: 1. I am usually the only obnoxious fan in the vicinity; 2. The bathroom is roughly 10 feet away and never a line to wait in!; 3. No driving and traffic!; 4. I can sit down and watch the game on a comfortable seating place without having to stand the whole game; 5. food and drinks are close and very affordable.

But I found out an old buddy Ron Mears was now on the sports information staff at Rice and got in touch with him. He happened to mention that Rice was coming to Tulsa and Ron got me sideline passes to take pictures for Rice Sports Information.

So the Coach Ed and I made our way out fairly early Saturday morning, packed up with my aging laptop and camera equipment. This trip was our first one since the famous trip to Hennessey last year for a Talihina playoff game. The trip was fairly routine, the biggest surprise was that he could get driving directions on Google Maps once we hit Tulsa and the 3G kicked in.

We found the stadium and drove past a lot of people wanting us to pay to park, as if. We turned right at the stadium and found a spot only about a football field away, in front of some person’s house. I carefully avoided the driveway and made sure there were not any “No Parking, Idiot!” signs and parked.

We made our way to H.A. Chapman Stadium. The last time I was at what used to be called Skelly Stadium, it was a dump. Chapman Stadium was much nicer. Honest. The Chapman family must have been loaded.

Our passes were clear at the other end of the stadium. As we entereed the stadium, the attendant made us open the computer and camera bag, but thankfully passed on the body search and we were in!

Andy and I made it to the press box after a lengthy wait at the elevator, one that was worth it since the press box was four floors up. I was wearing one of my Journal t-shirts and while riding the elevator, a writer from the Tulsa World looked down to read my shirt.

I could tell he wanted to say “Wow, you’re with the LeFlore County Journal!” or “What the _ _ _ _ is the LeFlore County Journal?”

We found my old OSU buddy Ron and since we had not seen each other for some 20 years, endured an awkward man hug.

We talked for a few minutes and found the food. After chowing down, we made our way to the field and tried to get Poteau’s Garrett Klutts to look our way. He is a freshman playing footbal for TU. He didn’t look our way, so we walked around and as I was trying to take a picture of TU’s band, the cheerleaders rudely got in my way and ruined the picture as you can see on the right.

We did get a picture of Garrett as TU was coming out on the field and later on the sidelines.

Rice jumped ahead early and then it was all TU. While standing on the Rice sidelines, we were not exactly entertained by the people behind the visitor's bench. This one fat kid who looked like Bobby from King of the Hill, was more concerned with shouting insults at the Rice players. I thought he needed a good spanking. So did the adults alongside him.

Another scrawny kid who looked like he probably liked to eat boogers, saw me taking a picture of the Rice coach. “Hey, you’re taking a picture of Rice!” like it was a crime.

A mature Craigman would have ignored the statement, of course, instead of saying “better than taking pictures of you.”

There were plenty of other adults being just as rude. I wondered what made a person be this ignorant. I seriously doubt they would dare shout some of the things they did if they were face to face with the players. One obnoxious TU student, who acted rather drunk and looked like he had never stepped foot on a football field, was on the Rice guys hard.

I wanted to mention something to him, but didn’t want Andy and myself to have to take on an entire section of drunk college kids and embarrass them with a whipping.

The weather was great. I kept hoping we would somehow appear on the jumbotron so I could take a picture of us on the jumbotron, but it didn’t happen.

We went back to the pressbox at halftime for more nourishment and to download the pictures and give them to Ron. Still plenty of food and diet pop!

The game continued to be a blowout. We enjoyed the second half from the pressbox and Ron asked if I got a picture of Rice’s best running back, who just happened to be having a career game.

“Uh, no,” I said. Heck, I had plenty of pictures of Tulsa, including the one on the left I was fairly proud of. But the Rice guys just weren’t doing a whole lot. He didn’t seem to be too upset. We said our farewells with a couple of minutes left and actually made it home in time for the OU game.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sad night for many

Friday night will be a good night for many LeFlore County seniors.

For others, it will be a sad night.

Some of our seniors from Spiro and Talihina (and maybe Arkoma) will get to play at least one more game in the playoffs next week.

For the seniors from Bokoshe, Heavener, Panama, Pocola and Poteau, this will end the football playing days.

A few seniors might get to play at the next level, but most of them will take off the pads one last time.

These players have played, practiced and prepared for years. Now, all they will have are the memories, both good and bad.

It shouldn’t be this way, but playing high school football will be one of the highlights of their lives, whether they play on a good team or a bad one.

That certainly was the way I felt of it. For 30 years, I have wished for a chance to go back and play one final game (or season!) There is no way that is going to happen, especially when one is close to half a century old.

We were not that good my senior year, finishing 3-7. I still remember who we played and could come up with the scores if I had to. Our final game was at home against Stigler. The Panthers were going to the playoffs, we weren’t.

But we wanted to go out with a bang. The first play of the game, we ran a reverse and Joe Westfall ran down to the Stigler 5. We scored a couple of plays later and actually led.

Stigler came back to take the lead, but we had the chance to score right before halftime, but one quarterback who just happens to be writing this blog, was stopped short of the end zone. Stigler added another touchdown and the end quickly approached.

The game was over and so was my playing days. I was okay until we got in the locker room and started taking off the pads one final time. That was when it hit me. We would never do this again. I didn’t much care for some aspects of football, such as wind sprints or practicing when it was over 100 degrees.

But we were part of something special. Our small group of seniors had been doing this for five years, forming bonds that will last until the day we die. We fought together and celebrated together. Yes, there are times better, but not many.

I remember so well running on to the field before games with everybody on our side of the field standing and clapping and the band playing Allegiance (which was our school song).

I remember the bad times (like getting thumped by Vian that senior year) along with actually taking the lead in our game against Poteau, the first time that had happened in my varsity career.

I also remember one of my best friends, Marty Hinds, tearing up his knee in a pre-season scrimmage and realizing that all those miles we ran in the blazing summer heat and all those weights he had lifted, were all for naught. Number 51 would have to watch it all from the sidelines.

There is no feeling quite like this. So for you seniors playing for the final time tomorrow night, relish the memory and go out like a champion.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election is finally over

The long election is over. Finally. Candidates and supporters have spent well over a year getting ready for yesterday’s election.

There were plenty of winners, some that fell short and lots of people who were happy while many others sad.

As the election ended, we have many new faces representing our county and area.

James Lockhart rose from a political newcomer to capture the house seat over Roger Mattox. It was a hard and long journey for the Heavener resident. When he first decided to run, his friends had a good time with his decision.

He showed that hard work still means something, campaigning for some 18 months. He wore out the tires on his truck, visited with as many people as possible and beat a capable opponent in Roger Mattox.

There was a surprise in the senate race as Mark Allen defeated former representative Neil Brannon, relying on his strength in Sequoyah County. Brannon easily won LeFlore County but came up short overall as Allen’s support from up north made the difference.

For district judge, Marion Fry won Latimer County but Jon Sullivan was elected by winning the other two counties.

Kenneth Corn lost in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor, falling to Todd Lamb in a battle between two former senators.

We also have two new county commissioners as Derwin Gist won the Dist. 1 position and Ceb Scott carried Dist. 3.

All the attention was focused on the candidates. But we also need to remember everybody on the election board and the people who worked at the precincts, long hours with little pay.

This was the third time I have sat in on an election at the LeFlore County Election Board. The previous two were busy, but nothing like this election with the local and regional elections, along with state elections.

I started out able to keep up to date but that soon ended when the precincts started coming in, most within a 30-minute time frame. Supporters of the various campaigns were dropping by to get some information and three precincts had trouble with their ballot boxes, making it necessary to do a recount at the election board.

One of the precincts was off by one vote. But the staff still followed procedures to recount all the votes, not that one vote would have mattered.

Now it is a time for us to come together, whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or something in between or on the outside of those parties. The people have spoken. It might not be the result you were looking for, but we still need to support all our representatives.

Oklahoma and LeFlore County are going through a tough time and it is expected to get worse. This is not a good time to be an elected official. I would not want to be a senator or representative, and not just because I would not enjoy the whole kissing baby thing. There are tough decisions that will have to be made. Everybody will be fighting for this and that. Hopefully our elected officials can do the right thing and fight for what is right, not support the groups or individuals that helped get them elected.

So congratulations James Lockhart, Mark Allen, Jon Sullivan, Derwin Gist and Ceb Scott. And thanks to Roger Mattox, Neil Brannon, Marion Fry, Ike Davis and Bobby McKenzie.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thankfully, election is here

The home phone rings again!

Ugh. I am busy watching television, eating or working on the computer when the cursed home phone rings. Typically, we don’t answer the home phone because it’s usually somebody trying to sell us some crud we don’t need or want.

Over the last few days, it has been recorded phone calls of politicians asking us to vote for them. Or actual people calling to ask for me to vote for this candidate or another. Double ugh.

It’s bad enough we have to put up with the politician’s pollution campaign ads everywhere we look, but we also have to be bothered at home?

I can just imagine the conversation where the brilliant idea came about to call people at home and ask for their vote.

“Hey, I know!” said one campaign staffer to the other. “We can get a recorded message of our candidate and hammer all the people with phone calls on the answering machines!”

“You sure that is a good idea?” asked the other, more sensible campaign staffer. “Some people probably won’t like it.”

“Oh, they will be fine and feel honored to receive a phone call from a politician!”

Uh, not hardly. I came home from lunch earlier and scratched off two more candidates off the list of people I was considering voting for. I have scratched off all of them except for one local candidate who did the phone nazi thing and left a recorded message. But I did chide him and I will vote for him.

We have also had a bunch of people come by the house with campaign literature asking us to vote for somebody. I always make sure to think green and promptly put the brochure in the recycling bin.

A candidate is much more likely to get my vote by being honest with the people, not promising to do this and that when they are one person, probably a new politician with not even as much power as the person who hands out soap towels in the bathroom.

If it wasn’t so silly, maybe it would not bother me as much. Practically 99.9 percent of the candidates promise NEW and BETTER jobs, lower taxes, better education, etc. Might as well throw in a theme park promise for the greater Bokoshe metropolitan area. All those stand about the same chance of passing.

Yes, we want lower taxes. But like one candidate who I respect said, “Everybody wants less taxes, but what do you want to cut?”

How about aid to people who could work but prefer to sip off the government’s you know what. Typically, most people don’t want to give up anything. Let the great unwashed masses from up north and out west give up stuff. Don’t give me any of this JFK “Don’t ask what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Or state, or county, or city.

Finally, the election is here. I must admit that the political ads have been very nice and I don’t have a problem with most of the local candidates.
But still, I wonder why somebody would want to run (see the no power comment above) and spend thousands and thousands of dollars to gain a position that does not pay all that great. Is it ego? Are they power hungry? Or did they make a bet and lose it?

Then again, maybe I am wrong. It won’t be the first time or the last.