National attention a double blessing
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Alcoa and Maryville are playing on ESPN2.
And the game will kick off at high noon.
On a Sunday.
The first outcry should now be heard in, 3, 2 ... oh, three or four months ago, actually.
Yes, it is on Sunday; and, no, the schools didn’t get a choice. George Quarles certainly doesn’t want to take on the ever-improving Knox West team on a short week. Gary Rankin doesn’t need a shortened practice schedule before the Tornadoes’ district game with a rejuvenated Loudon squad.
Winning on ESPN2 is great, but not if you show up discombobulated and out of routine five days later to lose.
A few letters and phone calls have come across my desk, and others are already lamenting the rumor the game would be on Sunday and not for concerns over the welfare of the schedule, but for the spiritual welfare of all involved.
As a personal rule, religion isn’t something I debate in public. I keep my faith my way, you keep it however you are led to, and I let it be — unless you come knocking on my door to tell me how much better your way is at some ungodly early hour on Saturday morning. In that case, I feel justified in channeling Weekend Editor Steve Wildsmith and concocting some fantastical story about how I worship Captain Crunch. And then expounding about my followers and I believe he will be picking us up in his berrylicious spaceship to take us away — if we just keep stealing bicycles from other religious groups to prove our worth.
But I digress.
When the first message got passed my way, just days after ESPN contacted the schools, my first thought was mild amusement followed immediately by a bit of pondering.
Why didn’t I hear anything the previous week when The Daily Times Classic’s final high school baseball games were played on a Sunday? Why not when various other baseball, softball and soccer tourneys ran into Sunday finals? What was so different here from the spring sports?
Was it the time?
Noon is not convenient, I admit, especially for those 11 a.m. service-goers. However, in my experience there isn’t a preacher, reverend, father or insert-your-own-religious-based leader here, worth his or her salt that doesn’t see the opportunity to make some lemonade when such situations occur, and indications are many religious leaders are doing just that.
After all, it wasn’t the NFL who came up with the idea of early Sunday night services followed by a Super Bowl chili dinner. A well-timed service with football fellowship to follow is a well-attended service.
Was it the size?
Football obviously has the largest team and largest crowds in high school athletics. It has a bigger impact and makes a bigger statement in the community than any other sport.
But if that’s the case, then the principle would boil down to some magic number of souls being involved in the contest before it’s worth saying something. Literally a case of baseball be damned.
Or is it just the stage that ESPN2 represents?
With the media attention that the mere announcement attracted and the potential feeding frenzy likely to surround a voice of opposition, the chance to spread the word in that camera light must be enticing.
If a player, cheerleader, band member, concession stand volunteer, coach, fan, group, or any combination thereof won’t show up Aug. 26 because of the way they believe, then I respect that absolutely and without question. It’s only when any of those same aforementioned folks are having their beliefs questioned or condemned by others for either attending, or not, that you have to ponder, “Why?”
It’s taken generations of players working hard, just seven miles from each other, to build the kind of programs that would attract the national spotlight and the recognition and reward it brings with it for the players, their schools and for the community.
Any day of the week ESPN2 is a blessing to a community’s team. With two, it’s twice that.
Even on Sunday.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com