Dang it. This has been a tough last few days.
It started out good. Friday we had some of the greatest games of the year all across the Local County News coverage area. Then, it was a normal Husker Saturday that ended with a win and the boys in red moving to 4-0. But that’s about the point where it ended.
First, pictures start to surface of three Husker players kneeling during the national anthem, an issue I thought would be largely avoided because they don’t often have the players on the field during the anthem in college. Then, word got out that Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boat accident early Sunday morning. Not long after, we learn that golf legend Arnold Palmer had passed. Then Nebraska Cornhusker legend Milt Tenopir passed away after a battle with cancer. Finally, we had to sit through possibly the most childish debate in recent history.
I’m not going to touch that last one. We all know how that is going to turn out.
However, the rest really got to me. The kneeling players, as I have said before, are putting into action a right that they have been given by the constitution. That part did not bother me. It’s better than some of the other options they could use to protest.
Two things did bother me though. While those three kneeled and subsequently were given endless media coverage - I’ve watched this get talked about on repeat on Big Ten Network for days - there was four other players that jumped up to help spread the flag across the field. They showed their pride in their flag and their country, and yet the only coverage I’ve seen of that is a few retweets on Twitter. That’s a double standard, defined.
The other part that bothered me was the reactions they received. One of the players, Michael Rose-Ivey, said in a statement that they received death threats towards both the players and their families. I have seen people, on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, say these players don’t deserve to play football anymore. A Board of Regents member was quoted in a national paper saying these players don’t deserve to play football anymore.
Really? Both of those reactions are completely and utterly unacceptable. Never, ever, ever should you make a threat towards another human being, especially not for peacefully expressing their beliefs. Whether you agree or not. Never, ever, ever should you think a players beliefs should align with yours to compete for your entertainment. Never.
Moving on. The three deaths simply seemed to compound on each other. While I’m not a Marlins fan, I certainly appreciated the talent of Jose Fernandez. He made one of the smoothest plays in baseball history when he snagged a line drive from Troy Tulowitzki in 2013. It was so casual, you’d have thought Tulowitzki lobbed the ball to him. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and look it up. He was a budding star that had an all-star future ahead of him.
Many young, non-golf fans may think Arnold Palmer was simply what you get when you mix lemonade and tea, but the reality is he was arguably the greatest golfer of all time. A case can be made that he is one of the most dominant athletes, regardless of sport, ever. He was Tiger Woods before Tiger Woods. He was a once-in-a-generation talent that many in this generation, myself included, missed out on enjoying.
Possibly the least known of the three, especially outside of Nebraska, was Milt Tenopir. For those that don’t know, Tenopir was the offensive line coach of the Huskers for 29 years. He was the architect behind “The Pipeline” in the ‘90s, coached 21 all-americans and led his lines to 13 national rushing titles. He was well loved among his players and was revered by the current players and staff. He is an icon in the coaching world, even if some of us regular people are not aware of who he is.
It was certainly a tough weekend. It can only go up from here.
Alright, I have a confession to make. I’m a bit of a stat nerd.
One of the first things I do after a game is go in and look up stats. I appreciate a good athlete, and I like to know how the good athletes fare in their games. Stats are often a good indicator of that.
Stats are also a great way for an athlete to go back and see their hard work pay off. Besides being a visual indicator of how well they did that week, stats are one of the first things that are looked at when trying to determine post-season awards and honors.
So, I went to MaxPreps, the site the NSAA uses to track stats for Nebraska high school sports, and started looking through the top 10 lists. I didn’t filter it by class, as I was curious how well our local athletes were doing compared to the entire state. I found quite a few fun facts that you can use at your next trivia night.
A few individual stats that stood out to me:
Neligh-Oakdale’s Grant White has earned a reputation as one of the top quarterbacks in the state, and the stats back that up. Through three games, he has just seven incompletions and has the top quarterback rating of anyone in the state with more than eight passing attempts.
White’s main target has been Tyson Belitz, who is currently third in the state in both receiving yards and yards per game, with 340 yards and 113.3 yards per game.
On the ground, St. Edward’s Braydon Olson and Bloomfield’s Quinten Moles are two of the top rushers in Nebraska. Olson is third in the state with 250 yards per game on the ground and his 15 touchdowns is also good for third. Moles isn’t far behind with his 248 yards per game.
Connor Croxen of Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing and Trevor Rasmussen of St. Edward have proven to be lockdown defenders, tying for seventh in the state with three interceptions each.
Alison Stracke has been one of the top offensive forces on the volleyball court this year, not just for Stuart but in the entire state, putting down 32 aces to rank fourth in the state. That number is tops for a Stuart squad that leads the state in aces as a team by a wide margin with 147.
Then, of course, there has been some great team efforts so far in 2016. Some of my favorites are:
Undefeated St. Mary’s has had a fantastic season at the net, connecting on 48.9 percent of their kill attempts, good for fourth in the state. Crofton, on the other hand, has been great defensively at the net as a team, ranking seventh in the state with 112 assisted blocks.
In football,Neligh-Oakdale and Riverside have proven to be two of the most high-powered offenses in the entire state. Both teams have recorded 14 passing touchdowns to tie for second in the state. The Chargers have scored 193 total points so far, good for sixth. The Warriors aren’t far behind, scoring 185 total points to rank ninth in Nebraska.
Two teams that should make any quarterback nervous are Stuart and Clearwater-Orchard. That’s because the two teams each have 12 sacks so far this year, good for fourth in the entire state.
Most teams have only played three games so far this year, which makes those stats even more incredible. Then, when you remember that those stats are compared to all the classes, that shows just how dominant some of the local athletes and teams have been in 2016.
GAME OF THE WEEK
There are some incredible games this week and choosing two was nearly impossible. However, you can find me in Burwell for a game that probably decides the favorite to win D1 as Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing rolls in to town. Then, I’ll be at the Neligh-Oakdale Triangular next Monday as two of Holt County’s best, Stuart and St. Mary’s, come to town.
Remember to submit your suggestions for Game of the Week. Simply let us know through Facebook, give us a call or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t want to.
However, after seeing so many players choose the 15th anniversary of 9/11 as the day to begin practicing the 2016 version of Kaepernicking, I have to say something about all this.
I’m not going to dig deep into the racial bias discussion that has been plaguing the country for years. I'm not going to talk about whether Colin and crew are right or wrong. I'm not going to talk about whether I feel certain groups are being disrespected by all of this. I don't have enough space for all of that. We can talk about that at another place at another time.
What I will talk about, though, is choosing your presentation.
I am a big believer in maintaining your constitutional rights. That includes the first amendment right that grants freedom of speech, among other rights. If someone feels the need to protest, by all means, they should protest. What Colin Kaepernick has done to show his opinion is a form of peaceful protest that I respect much more than rioting in the streets, hoping to change someone’s opinion of your race.
Since he first sat through the National Anthem in a preseason game a month or so ago, he has had various players, both teammates and opponents, follow suit. Good for them. Those players have used the platform they have gained as high-level professional athletes to silently voice their opinion on something they truly believe in.
So why did I get so bothered on the opening Sunday for the National Football League?
I was bothered because so many chose to join the cause, causing CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN to focus so much attention on these players, on a day where we should be focusing on honoring the 2,996 victims who perished in a senseless act of violence 15 years ago.
The day is not, as I have seen various people say, a day to remember the resulting war and the soldiers fighting said war. The day has nothing to do with law enforcement agencies across the country, outside of the 60 officers who perished attempting to save so many terrified people 15 years ago. It was not a day celebrating anything that these players are speaking or sitting out against, but a day to mourn those who we lost in the deadliest terror attack in American history.
What was even more bothersome to me about the players joining the cause was that so many, instead of taking a knee or sitting during the playing of the anthem, chose to raise their first high into the air, reminiscent of the Black Panther Party.
The Black Panther Party was a nationalist and socialist organization that was active for nearly 20 years. The Party instated many social programs and did do quite a bit of good for the United States. An argument can be made that they were one of the most influential reform organizations in modern history.
However, the party also had a violent reputation. They took advantage of open carry laws to carry around weapons during their “policing of the police”, a practice of monitoring police during interactions with black citizens. They made it known they would not hesitate to use violence if it came necessary. They had armed patrols throughout black neighborhoods, patrols that were known to threaten police and recite violence-advocating chants.
While the founders of the party were adamant that the party was not intended to be a violent party, there was certainly arms of the party that were or had no issue with being violent.
Now, almost 50 years after the founding of the Black Panther Party, the country has come full circle, with racial inequality back in the spotlight and people are once again using their symbol as a symbol of protest.
Many of the athletes in question did stand silently and respectfully during moments of silence that were held before the national anthem at most of the games on Sunday. I commend them for that.
However, just seconds later, during what was sure to be the most emotional National Anthem performance each stadium would see all year, with families of 9/11 victims, police officers, service men and women, fire fighters and even some football players, who weren’t given nearly as much attention as those with their arms extended upward, unfolding Old Glory across the field, some players decided to raise their fist in the air.
Using a symbol of a party that is remembered for the violent clashes with police, among other parties, is not appropriate during the national anthem on any day. It’s especially inappropriate on a day that is important in American history because of the shear amount of people who died as the result of unnecessary violence 15 years before.
Unite in your protest. Kneel or sit together. 9/11 brought out unity in this country that has not been matched in my lifetime. Unity should be celebrated every year on that day. Unity that the country needs again.
However, on that particular day with that particular gesture was the wrong way to protest.
Choose a better presentation.
Game of the Week
This week, you can find me working two football games. There will be no volleyball game of the week. Instead, we will start Friday off as Creighton takes on West Holt in a 1:30 p.m. game and then we will head to Elkhorn Valley for their homecoming game as they host Allen.
As always, if you have a team you want to see featured, e-mail, comment or message me your who and why. E-mails can be sent to email@example.com.
Fall sports are well underway, and it has been a glorious start all around.
Neligh-Oakdale is 2-0 in both football and volleyball, Elgin Public/Pope John’s volleyball squad was dominant in their first action of the year, O’Neill and Boone Central/Newman Grove will face off this Friday in one of the top football games of the season and Niobrara/Verdigre hosted a cross country meet that saw Creighton’s boys and Neligh-Oakdale’s girls take second in a loaded field.
With all the talented athletes performing during the first couple weeks of the season, one of the more exciting things to watch so far this year has been the area volleyball teams. What’s really amazing about these teams is not just how strong they are all-around, but how deep some of the teams are.
Take Elgin Public/Pope John as an example. As two-time district runner-ups, they obviously have plenty of talent. They kicked off their campaign last week with a dominant showing at the Stuart Double Triangular, beating Stuart and Chambers/Wheeler Central, two great teams in their own respects.
They were led by seniors such as Liz Selting, Amy Nelson and Jordan Mescher. However, junior Grace Henn provided 11 kills. Junior Nicki Payne and sophomore Ally Wemhoff had eight and seven digs, respectively. While those girls didn’t fill out the stat sheet as much as some of the seniors, they put up some very impressive numbers at a triangular that had four of the top teams in Antelope and Holt counties.
That seems to be the same story all across the area. So many teams have good senior leadership and very, very talented underclassmen.
Elkhorn Valley has players such as Hannah Ollendick, who, as a freshman, had 143 kills in 2015. Creighton returns junior Sydney Walton, who was an all-conference selection in 2015. Riverside junior Maddie Walkowiak recorded 154 kills last season.
That’s just three examples of the young talent that helps make the area so deep in volleyball. That’s just three examples of why volleyball teams in Holt, Knox, Antelope and Boone counties will be so good for at least a few years to come.
One last note on Sam Foltz
I wrote a few weeks ago about the death of Sam Foltz. This weekend, I had the chance to be at the Husker game in Lincoln and I just wanted to say how amazed I am at how well they honored his memory.
There was a constant crowd near the newly-finished memorial at the northwest corner of the stadium. His jersey was carried out by fellow special teams players and stayed on the bench throughout the game. Drew Brown was awarded a scholarship in Foltz’s name, surrounded by Sam’s family. The tunnel walk included Sam’s nephews. A moment of silence was held before the national anthem.
The moment that made the whole situation real, however, was when Nebraska took the field for a punt, minus the punter. You may have seen it already. Let me tell you, the videos on Facebook don’t do it justice. I’ve never heard a crowd make as much noise as they did for that minute. There was not a dry eye in the stadium. The emotion in the stadium at that moment was unrivaled. It is one experience I will never forget.
Game of the Week
This week, you can find me down in Albion as Boone Central/Newman Grove hosts O’Neill in a battle of undefeated, top 10 teams. On the volleyball schedule, Elkhorn Valley hosts Neligh-Oakdale in what promises to be a tough match.
Remember to get your suggestions in for next week’s game of the week. Let us know where you want us to be. Simply tell us a football or volleyball game you want featured and why. Facebook us, comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sports Editor at Antelope County News/The Orchard News, Logan is from Kearney and has a diverse sports background, including several seasons playing semi-pro football. All columns here are the opinion of the writer only and do not represent the views of the Antelope County News or Pitzer Digital.