Plenty for sports fans to appreciate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Everybody together now: It’s the moooooooost wonderful time … it’s the moooooooost wonderful time … it’s the moooooooost wonderful time … of the yeeeeeeeeeear!

Well, it is for me, at least.

Give me scarves and sweaters over tanktops and swimsuits, give me shivers over sweat, give me inflatable snowmen over pink flamingos in the front yard, give me bowl games and the NFL playoffs over major-league baseball monotony on the TV…and, yeah, if you want, you can give me presents, too.

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But the best thing about the Christmas season isn’t the weather, or the sports. It’s not floodlights on another lawn full of curvy white reindeer or even that shiny new Red Ryder BB gun (or whatever your equivalent happens to be) waiting underneath the tree. The best thing is Christmas night–when the presents have all been unwrapped, the turkey’s been eaten, the egg nog’s all been drank, and you can sit on the couch and watch the lights flicker on the Christmas tree and really appreciate all the good things we have going for us.

Because, let’s face it, appreciation’s not something we can manage “on the go.” The wonder and joy of being a parent isn’t at its high ebb during a diaper change, I’m guessing. Lord knows I’m nearly as grateful for being paid to cover football games when I’m frantically pounding out a game story with two minutes to go before deadline.

But Christmas gives us a chance to sit back and appreciate the gifts we’ve been given, starting, of course, with the big ol’ helping hand we’ve gotten from that mutual friend of ours who, I understand, has a birthday coming up. The point of this column, though, is to gently remind sports fans across the Black Belt to appreciate the many incredible performances they’ve seen and the remarkable success their teams have enjoyed.

It would be only natural for Demopolis supporters, for instance, to feel somewhat disappointed after the football team’s loss to Thomasville in the playoffs. But how many fans in this state have been able to watch their high school team put together a 27-game winning streak? How many have been able to watch players like Devin Goodwin and Dontrell Miller and Ezell Braxton? And how many, when football season’s over, still get to watch the school’s baseball team win championships, the girls’ basketball team make back-to-back Final Four trips, and the softball team make regular state tournament appearances? The answer: not many, if any, at all.

And that’s just one school. How fortunate, right now, are Southern Academy fans, who have not only rooted their football team to back-to-back state titles but had the privilege of just seeing the greatest statistical season put together by a running back in the history of Alabama football? The last two years, Sweet Water supporters have watched their football team win a state title, go 22-5, and feature one of the best young running backs in the state.

The list goes on and on. Sumter Co. basketball fans have seen the current Wildcats win one state basketball title and start the ’05-’06 season on the kind of tear that will be remembered for years. Greene Co. won a state title on the hardwood and has the talent to win another. R.C. Hatch supporters are enjoying not only the career of one of the country’s best underclassmen hoopsters but a potential run to three titles in four years. John Essex has put together the two best football seasons in their school’s history and won an area title in basketball. Linden only pulled off arguably the year’s biggest football playoff upset only a season after going 1-8. Sumter Academy’s volleyball team returned to the state championship game the same week their football team returned to the playoffs.

And even that list is woefully incomplete. The bottom line is that almost no matter where you live in the Black Belt or which school you support, if you’re a sports fan, you’ve been able to see your teams do something that a lot of other schools’ fans-or even your own schools fans, in the years past or the years to come–can only dream of seeing.

It’s hard to appreciate these things in mid-season; it’s just human nature to look at what’s on the scoreboard right now, what’s on the schedule for next week, and miss the big picture. But that’s what part of what a sports fan’s Christmas is for.

Well, that and a Red Ryder BB gun.