Posted 6/1/23

With graduations complete and the summer singing along, another year of scholastic sports is in the books. The last 2023 UIL sporting event for the readership was the final round of the girls 3A …

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With graduations complete and the summer singing along, another year of scholastic sports is in the books. The last 2023 UIL sporting event for the readership was the final round of the girls 3A state golf tournament, where the Mineola girls team made their third consecutive trip to Austin. 

The year was a banner year for Alba-Golden, Mineola and Quitman. Amazing finishes, thrilling action and playoff performances aplenty featured in the 2022-23 scholastic season. The athletes rewarded the fans and spectators with many, many memorable moments.

Having had the good fortune to cover much of the action, several notebooks full of game records have just been bundled and placed in the trunk. A natural part of that process is taking note of ways the experience of scholastic sports might be improved. 

That is one way to put it. Others might just stop reading here because they know what is coming: ‘complaints from an old guy.’ And they would be right. So, buckle up, here we go. 

We start on the gridiron. In what has become an unfortunate exercise in the spectacle surrounding football – spectacle being defined as something which is done that has absolutely nothing to do with winning or losing – the use of eye black has just gotten to be too much to stomach. 

Watching the state playoffs often seemed more like backstage at the one-act play than on the gridiron. Eye black has a purpose, and it should be used to serve that purpose. Face-painting should be reserved for the county fair. 

There is plenty more spectacle in football. Sure wish most of it would just go away. Among the extras which would improve the event if they suddenly disappeared would be: blow up run-throughs, train whistles, sirens, animal calls, go carts, and smoke generators.    

Most of the above fit into the ‘wouldn’t it be neat’ category. As in, “Wouldn’t it be neat to have a smoke generator on the sideline when the team runs out?” No.

The run-throughs are expensive. Seems that every district in Texas could find a better use for $10,000+ than for a giant balloon mascot which is used maybe a dozen times a year.

From the gridiron to the gym. The recent popularity of individual posters for each athlete is commonplace these days. The quality of the posters is amazing, and they surely make great keepsakes for the athlete and his or her family. 

In some of my favorite gyms around East Texas the posters are hung on a wall. That is nice because it allows anyone to easily learn the numbers and names of an opposing team. 

However, in other places, the posters are hung up on handrails situated between the gym bleachers and the playing floor. This, of course, obstructs the view from the stands.  In other cases, parents or supporters have brought the posters to the gym and hang them from guardrails. 

Is it really necessary to do this? Clean sight-lines to watch the players in action would be preferable.

Moving on to the diamond, an error in softball field construction seems to have been repeated on fields throughout East Texas. 

The geometry of the fields, the bleachers and the dug-outs at many local softball fields prevent most folks sitting in the bleachers from seeing the whole playing field. It is a simple sight-line problem. The foul territory is too small, the dug-outs too tall and the bleachers insufficient.

Although a few baseball fields suffer from similar issues, this is largely a softball field problem.

For a great example of well-considered softball field construction, one can head-up to Como-Pickton. Followers of the Lady Eagles enjoy tall, enclosed, covered bleachers that afford excellent viewing – including the left and right-field corners.

It was at a softball playoff game in Whitehouse where everyone was reminded that OSHA has a tripwire for noise levels. It is 85 decibels. The pre-game music was so loud at Whitehouse that one could not carry out a conversation with the person sitting right next to you. 

We could reel that volume in, at the Whitehouse softball field as well as in most gyms across the region. 

While it seems that, thankfully, walk-up music in baseball and softball seems to be on the wane, a new irritant has emerged. Public address announcers at football games are now advertising while announcing the game. 

It may not be a “first down for the home team” but now rather a “(fill-in with a business advertisement) first down for the home team.”

Must all our scholastic sports become commercialized? What a terrible trend. If our schools are forced to sell advertising to do the public address at home football games, there is a way to turn a quick $10,000 –  trade in the run-through for value.

Can’t wait for football season. Its right around the corner.