Struck Strikes Out: All torn up like 235

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Try as I may, as a prep I was never privileged to play on the venerable floor of Veterans Auditorium in Des Moines.

In fact, through the years the only times I've ever been on that floor have been on the job to photograph area basketball teams or wrestlers fortunate enough to qualify for state.

Well...OK, and those couple of times some friends and I, and our good friend Bud Weiser, took in some Drake Bulldogs games when the late coach Maury John had them kickin' tail and takin' names.

And I never considered the possibility of walking across that floor to receive a statewide News Media Award from the Iowa High School Athletic Association, as was bestowed on me last Friday night during televised ceremonies at halftime of the Class 1A state championship basketball game.

I guess if you live long enough, they eventually get to the Ss.

But, there I was, and it was a gas because Grand Meadow native Ron Sadler, a member of the IHSAA Board of Control, retiring superintendent of Crestwood of Cresco, former coach and teacher at Cherokee and Sutherland and some other places I don't remember, saw to it that he presented me the award.

I've known Ron since I was a freshman in college at Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb., which is quite a few years. He was a noted basketball and baseball player for the Wildcats after his Grand Meadow High School teammate Tom Rutter, today a Cherokee businessman, made him famous in those sports.

I thank Ron for the kind words as he shook my hand and handed me the plaque.

And I'm glad it wasn't his fault that the official program and television graphic involved in the awards ceremony listed me as being from Storm Lake. The IHSAA officials said they had the program printed by an outside printer which screwed up the home towns of several honorees, and that TV simply took its information from the erroneous program.

Yes, I used to live in Storm Lake and I graduated from Storm Lake St. Mary's High School and Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. But I've chosen to live in Cherokee for more than 35 years and Cherokee is my beloved home town, not Storm Lake.

While visiting with Ron before the halftime ceremonies, I congratulated him, his school, and his varsity boys basketball coach Lynn McCormick for their second consecutive trip to the Class 3A State Championship game. Lynn coached boys basketball and taught at Cherokee for six years before leaving under not so sunny circumstances I had absolutely nothing to do with.

Ron told me how the entire Cresco community embraces Lynn, how the players and parents love him, and how hard his team plays. Ron also said the school is fortunate to be in a cycle of having some exceptional basketball talent the past few years.

Ron then left, stopped to visit with McCormick for a moment and, I assumed, to tell him I was there. I covered every game of Lynn's six years in Cherokee, my son played for him his junior/senior years, after tough losses I commiserated with he and his wife on a regular basis, and I even used to play a little golf with him now and then, even though he was an A player and I a B.

As we honorees and spouses began to walk toward the gym floor, I met McCormick, who had donned his coat and was heading for the exit after watching the first half of the 1A Championship.

Possibly ignoring me, a rather imposing presence in my Howie Long Collection of 38x34 black pleated slacks, XXL black mock-turtle, and fashionable grey/black/white, size 50-long herringbone sports coat adorned by a sizable IHSAA red rose boutonniere, Lynn did not even look up.

So, I stepped out of line in front of him and shook his hand and congratulated him for his recent basketball success. In a nano-second, he seemed shocked to see me, turned ashen, offered a limp, reluctant, retreating handshake, quietly uttered, "Thanks," and quickly headed for the door.

End of story.

As it is, my big night to shine in the Bright Lights of our Capitol City on statewide TV has left me bewildered and torn for three reasons.

First, IHSAA, from the bottom of my heart, thanks for the coveted award. But what took you so long? Just like J-Lo's booty, my best stuff is behind me.

Secondly, IHSAA, even though the programs were printed out of house, do you not have somebody proof them before they hit the press? You're recording history here and the programs are forever keepsakes for players, parents, coaches, fans and honorees. You have an obligation to try real hard to get them right.

Thirdly, it was good to see Lynn McCormick. And I'm sad that's obviously a one-way pleasantry.

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