For the love of all that is great on the gridiron, give me back my weekend football time.
Until recently, the average football fan was able to look forward to a good football game on Sunday afternoon or Monday night. It was generally a great excuse to relax, gather with family or friends and not worry about anything except for enjoying the product on the field.
However, anymore, you can’t turn on a game without seemingly half of the conversation on the screen being about something political, usually the recent protests during the anthem. It is ruining football.
I’m really not a very political guy. Very rarely will I express my opinion on issues such as this - although, ironically, this time last year, I did. That’s not what this is about. This is a plea to get the enjoyment of a Sunday football game back.
The thing is, the issue is rehashed every single week when another player is shown on his knee. President Trump acted as a catalyst to get the fire burning hot again with some of his comments, making this weekend the absolute worst.
Frankly, I don’t put the task of fixing the NFL product on the league. You can’t tell players whether they can protest or not and expect to be taken seriously. That’s infringing on constitutional rights, no matter how disrespectful you find it. Instead, I put the burden on the major media. ESPN. Fox. ABC. CBS. Any channel that broadcasts the games. Anyone that writes on a game. Stop sensationalizing it.
It is absolutely their right. The issues they question should be looked in to. However, the world of athletics need to quit being taken over by politics. There’s a place and time. During a game is not it.
New England Patriots. 1990’s Nebraska Cornhuskers. Alabama Crimson Tide.
Those are just a few examples that come to mind quickly of a dynasty. If you look more locally, you could probably add St. Mary’s volleyball, Crofton girls athletics and Norfolk Catholic football. If things keep going the way they are, you can probably soon add Elgin Public/Pope John volleyball to that list.
A dynasty is typically a team that is the cream of the crop, year in and year out. They are always in contention for championships at the varying levels and almost always enter games as the favorite. Opponents often circle that game on the calendar. It often draws the biggest crowd and rarely ends with the opponent heading home happy.
That has been the case for the Wolfpack the past four years. Coach Tina Thiele-Blecher has created an atmosphere of winning in the locker room and the girls expect to win.
Last year, that amounted to the first state championship berth in Wolfpack history after narrowly missing out on a shot for three years in a row. They did that on the strength of a strong senior class, so it was understandable to expect a step back this year. However, that has been far from the case.
The team just keeps winning. The underclassmen have seamlessly stepped into lead rolls and they are rolling to an 8-1 start. They know how to get the kill at the net, with Paige Meis, Grace Henn and Lydia Behnk all over 40 kills so far this season. They get plenty of defense to go with it, too.
If the Wolfpack keep winning, they’ll be long remembered for their incredible run.
This past week we got a taste of what makes high school sports great - rivalries.
In particular, we saw Neligh-Oakdale take on Clearwater-Orchard in both volleyball and football, on homecoming week no less. This go around, the Cyclones were able to get the best of the Warriors in both match ups.
What separated the battles from other games this season was the atmosphere during the games. When teams like Clearwater-Orchard and Neligh-Oakdale get together, there is always an added sense of urgency throughout the room. The people in the stands, most of whom took part in those battles themselves when they were in school, seem to cheer a bit louder. The celebrations on the sidelines get a bit more powerful. The coaches are just a bit more intense.
Rivalries are what drive the competition of high school and even college sports. The best rivalries are the ones fueled by towns that are in close proximity. The kids all generally know each other. They know the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent. They always want bragging rights and, usually, the best rivalries involve some light trash talk.
You can never expect to be able to predict what will happen in a rivalry game. The added motivation that comes with bragging rights can not be understated. That’s why it is understandable when coaches and players feel a little bit more intense about the end result.
This state is full of great rivalries. The Millard Schools. Kearney and Grand Island. Omaha Skutt and Elkhorn South. Chambers/Wheeler Central and Burwell. Neligh-Oakdale and Clearwater-Orchard.
Rivalries are the best part of high school athletics. Locally, the Cyclones won this round, but the fight isn’t over. Neligh-Oakdale will soon flip the script again. The fight will go back and forth for a long time.
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