Adjusting sports lineups in your head is exhausting

January 28, 2022

Run but can’t hide - Flashback to 1985: I’m coaching Cape track. We are an unbeaten team with 30 straight dual-meet wins and conference champs who won all four relays in the Henlopen Conference Championship meet. We were strong and diversified. I had three frontline athletes (Petco Track Club) who not only missed the bus the Saturday morning of the state meet, they went into witness protection. I couldn't find them anywhere. Fast forward to 1998. I came down to the lobby level in the elevator at Beebe Hospital, having just eyeballed Lizzie on the first day of her life. The door opens, and there is one of my missing runners, standing there ready to see his newborn son, born the same day. “So there you are,” I said. “I’m sorry, coach,” he said. “Be a good dad, and it's great to see you,” I told him. But he felt bad, and honestly he is a great guy and great dad and life goes on, but he is dogged by that day in May when unlike a Pavlovian dog, he did not answer the bell.

Milling about - The fun part of covering sports for me is connecting with the social matrix outside the lines. Sports is the ongoing Quaker meetinghouse. That’s where you meet families of the athletes, from basketball grandmothers to wrestling dads. And it cuts across colors and cultures and jobs and school uniforms. The current climate where there are so many snapdragons hiding in the garden, like pocket gophers in a flower bed, finds a coming together inside the competitive arena. After the match Wednesday, I told Lance Abbott and Rodney Layfield, two Sussex Central athletes from the late ’80s, “The true sportsman can never lose. Be there for all the athletes and celebrate what they do. But it’s hard to get to that level.” – Ahh, grasshopper.

Going deep - It was funny when coach Andy Reid was asked what he thought when Buffalo went up by three with 13 seconds left to play. “I felt pretty good because we have the grim reaper at quarterback,” Reid said. “Then coverage switched to Patrick Mahomes standing at the podium immediately after the game. It was laughable because Patrick is like a down-home, golly-gee-wow personality type. Patrick as the grim reaper just doesn’t fit, although Mahomes is a heartbreaker. And very odd and uncomfortable for Andy of all people to even go there.       

Driving yourself nuts - I stopped coaching track when I became obsessed and trapped inside my own mind with shifting lineups and projected outcomes and scores. I wanted freedom. I was driving myself crazy. A sports writing/photographer grandfather of a wrestler falls into the same trap, and so do parents of swimmers where times are easily retrieved, then compared. But comparing scores doesn’t tell you much – it's all about matchups in sports. The Cape swim teams are at Sussex Academy Friday afternoon. I am tempted to compare scores and times by events, except swimming is not my beat. I'm afraid I may slip on the deck and bruise my coccyx. Cape boys (10-1) versus Sussex Academy (9-0). Cape girls (9-2) versus Sussex Academy (9-0). A natatorium is an indoor pool. They are like humidors of chlorine and wet bodies. It's a different world. “Your girlfriend’s so fat she was baptized at Sea World,” always got a laugh at sports banquets, but I’m glad I never said it. 

Snippets - Lloyd Mears, the artist formerly known as “Pink Lloyd,” stopped refereeing basketball this year after 35 straight years. Lloyd’s nephew, Jerry Mears, is the retired AD at Laurel. Jerry and his wife Lisa have a daughter, Maura Mears, who went to Parkside High School. Maura was a sophomore midfielder on the 2021 Shippensburg field hockey team that won the Division II National Championship. Cape girls’ basketball at Sanford on Saturday would be a tell to see if the Vikings are ready to make a run at a state final, but the weather forecast puts that game in doubt. I knew coach Steve Azzanesi was hired as the new head football coach at Alvernia University because his family and my son Jack’s friends knew before it was public. “Who moves to Reading?” I asked Jack. Alvernia is a private Franciscan Catholic University. I was taught by Franciscans at Bishop Egan High School outside Philly, where I took more shots than heavyweight Jerry Quarry and every day was “thump day.” Go on now, git! 


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