Get out of the way! We came to play

June 30, 2023

Get out of the way - Open fields for field hockey for high school-aged athletes are held every Tuesday night at Champions Stadium. Cape coaches open the gates at 6 p.m., then it's, “Let ‘em play and get out of the way.” On Tuesday, there were about 35 players divided into two teams scheduled to play two halves of hockey. The thunder rumbled at halftime and before you could say Usain Bolt or sing “Gimme Shelter,'' players were in cars with no plans for resuming play. Open fields are like improvisational jazz, more free-flowing than regular-season games. Most of these athletes have skills and toughness, and they are also fit. Generally, modern-day athletes seem to relish fitness, all hot dog jokes aside. 

Notable no-shows - Open fields and courts and weight rooms must by rule remain open and not required, and if the athlete makes a statement by not showing up, that itself is some weird irony, because if the time is your own, you owe no explanation, which sounds like an excuse or at least creative storytelling. I admire the star from one sport who goes to open gym in another just to see what it's like. Now that will provoke some snap chatting by players and consternation among coaches.

Portals and images - Everyone is so wonderful, talented and physically attractive that I can no longer stand hearing about it. The NIL — name, image and likeness — is a term that describes the means through which college athletes are allowed to receive financial compensation. NIL refers to the use of an athlete's name, image and likeness for marketing and promotional endeavors. Throw that into the mixmaster of the portal and here come the agents, and the entire system has escaped like a helium balloon over Halifax.

Ocean lifeguards - Years ago at the height of my creative sportswriting, I was covering the Mid-Atlantic Lifeguarding Regionals on Rehoboth Beach. I decided to interview the winner of the open-water 400-meter swim, figuring that was the standard of excellence. A humble young man looking like Burt Lancaster from the movie “The Swimmer” endured my interest and admiration. He told me he swam for Syracuse in the Big East Conference. I said, “Well then, that figures. You're a real guy and a highly trained D1 swim athlete.” “I’m the worst person on the team,” he said. “Every woman on the team can beat me.” I went off road, “So even if you became a woman, your position on the team would remain unchanged?” “That’s right,” he laughed. We didn’t realize we were part of a lesson plan that wouldn’t be written for another 20 years.    

Snippets - Deion Sanders aka Coach Prime  is now head coach at Colorado. He underwent successful surgery for blood clots in both legs. Sanders said there is no talk of amputation of his left foot. Ryan Mallett, 35, former Michigan and Arkansas quarterback, drowned June 27 in Destin, Fla. The beach was guarded, and Mallet was a great athlete and not reckless. Don’t bring a pet to a fireworks celebration; it brings out the bite-and-flight response. Your dog may hide like a fugitive for three days — we’re talking David Jansen, an old-school fugitive. Walter Thomas (Cape/Belltown) retired after working 35 years at Villanova University. Walter was a high jumper on the 1978 Cape state championship track team. Bill Collick attended Walter’s retirement celebration. Basically, preseason practices for college football begin Aug. 1 with a full slate of 11 games. I like reading 2023 rosters from day 1 to game day just to see who stays. You have to be tough to make any college football roster. The MLB Draft is set for July 9-11. Many local fans will be following Jake Gelof, who is currently sliding up or down anywhere from No. 35 to No. 50. And then I call it Antiques Roadshow Syndrome, where you can track the projected signing bonus for certain slots in the draft order. If you want to play that game, the cyber world is ready for you. Here’s a football rule to chew on: “There is a limit (FBS/FCS) of 110 student-athletes who may engage in practice activities prior to the institution's first day of classes or prior to the fifth day before the day of the institution's first contest, whichever occurs earlier.” But you can replace players who just walk away. I could tell a hundred stories about those guys, some much tougher than the players who stayed. Go on now, git!

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