A thundering herd is a sound felt but not heard

Six hundred middle school runners race at Browns Branch County Park
October 27, 2017

Thundering Herds - Some 300 middle school cross country boys rumbled and romped past my camera lens Oct. 25 at the Southern Delaware Middle School Cross Country Championships. I could feel the wind in my face and the good vibrations of hard ground beneath my feet. Later, the girls galloped past me. The athletes moved en masse toward the tree line looking like a rainbow of Play-Doh. And pretty quickly they began to come back. It was Luke Burton in 12:37 and Brexton Carter in 12:43 of Beacon running one-two. Beacon placed four runners in the top 10 and crushed the comp with 36 points. The next closest was Springer with 91. Beacon’s Ethan Edery was fourth in 12:48, and Hunter Jones was 11th in 13:13. Mariner’s Brian Sponaugle was sixth in 12:52, while Elliot Bastian ran 13:10, good for 10th. The girls’ meet was won by Milford with 62 points. Katie Kuhlman of Mariner placed second in 13:59 and Mia Nuebling was ninth in 14:46.

Waze up - Do you remember those silly wazzup Budweiser commercials with guys on the phone slurring “What’s up?” Those were four friends from Temple University who made a short film and took it to a festival. The first commercial aired on Monday Night Football in 2002. I punched in the address of Browns Branch County Park into my Waze app and headed north Oct. 25 for the Southern Delaware Middle School Cross Country Championships. When I passed my left turn and the phone remained silent, I decided to talk to it, “Wazzup, Waze? Wazzup?” I arrived at 2:15 p.m. for what I thought was a 3 p.m. start featuring 12 middle schools, but 3 p.m. was the “walk through,” and the racing didn’t start until 4 p.m. The team I coached back in 1977 made a pact with themselves that I refused to sign. “We will jog the course or race the course, but we ain’t doing both. You decide, coach.” By 4 p.m., cars were parked a mile away, not many spaces in the small park. The event was a happening of youthful energy and promise.

Rhythm of the round ball - Cape Henlopen will follow the lead of several other Delaware high schools and move all home varsity basketball games to a 6:15 p.m. start. The reasoning is not to allow fans time to get home for the start of the NBA Game of the Week on TNT.  Mostly, it has to do with crowd composition; the early-bird special crew is more easily managed than the later, “Let’s go to a high school game and see what we can get into” crowd. Years ago, a certain off-the-record Henlopen Conference athletic director told me his home crowd was “way worse behaved” than any he encountered on the road, adding, “Riff-raff don’t travel, and they don’t mobilize early either.” Coaches mostly don’t like late suppertime games, but for sportswriters who eat supper after the game, it’s a chance to eat earlier and then watch some college games while sharing the couch with the dog.

Option quarterback - We are all read-option quarterbacks in charge of our own behaviors - we make decisions and act on them. I made a decision to photograph Cape’s Monday afternoon home JV football game, a 6-0 home win over Milford, because it is close and personal, and the players appreciate the coverage. My motto is, “Appreciate me and I’ll appreciate you right back.” On Wednesday, I was in school talking with Eduardo Saez, Kurtis Wells and Austin Mendez for Athlete of the Week biographies. I share my own stories while I interview others; the young athletes like it, they find it relaxing. It shows them respect and, anyway, I can’t help it. All three players had photos on their phones I had taken on Monday. I knew on that Monday afternoon that I had the option of sitting transfixed on the garage couch with a non-focused gaze or going out and being a “player” in the lives of some young athletes and making a difference.

Snippets - I don’t dislike the Dodgers, but I’ve become an Astros fan. I just love their lineup of players. Game 2 with a record eight home runs was incredible to watch, and it’s now tied at 1-1 and “we” have ourselves a series. The media hype machine keeps chasing Carson Wentz of the Eagles. They need to leave him unspoiled and go talk to LeGarrette Blount. LeGarrette is the great-nephew of jazz musician Sun Ra, whose real name is Herman Blount. LeGarrette was a 22-foot long jumper and 53-foot shot putter in high school. He is a straight-up beast. Just forget Wentz for awhile and talk to somebody else. Go on now, git!