It was definitely a freaky Friday feeling. I couldn’t escape thinking that something was missing. I hadn’t forgotten my billfold, cell phone or an important birthday. I had my wheelchair and cane close at hand. Yet, something didn’t feel quite right.
On the way into the restaurant I ran into two officials from a Kaw Valley League school who were on their way to a season-opening high school football game. Then, it occurred to me that this was the first time in more than 40 years that I hadn’t been heading for the press box, notebook and binoculars in hand to cover the game. Then I felt just a tinge of melancholy because one phase of my life was over. On the other hand, an exciting new phase had begun. I was now among the many who are spectators and would now be able to enjoy the game without responsibilities.
I have always been a dedicated fan of high school sports and it is certainly the biggest bargain around. One of the differences is the price is much cheaper and the players, cheerleaders, band members, coaches are your friends and neighbors.
My passion for high school football goes back to the days when I was in college. I had a part-time job covering area games for the Ottawa Herald. I learned to keep statistics utilizing a rather simple system that kept a flow chart of the game. It wasn’t long before I really enjoyed doing it.
In 1970 we bought the Mulvane News and I took over the football coverage. Because I kept detailed statistics, it wasn’t long before coaches started using my data for their statistical analysis.
When we moved to Carrollton, Mo., I entered another phase of sports coverage. I started doing the color analysis and kept statistics for the local radio station.
My love of high school football followed us to Bonner Springs in 1979. I soon learned to bleed “black and orange.” In fact, in 31 years as a Braves booster, I have missed only three games. The first was the game at Coffeyville in 1980. We went to Northeast Missouri State for an event for daughter, Jill. The second was in 1986 for the rehearsal dinner for daughter Melody’s wedding. The third was in 2002 when I took Jean on a long-promised trip to view the fall foliage in New England.
Leaving sports writing didn’t end my tour in the press box. For the past 28 years I have provided statistics for all high school games. It all started one week when coach Joe Mintner called me and said his student statistician had messed up and wondered if he could borrow a copy of my stats. The next week he called and asked if I would mind making my material available to him. From that night on I have kept statistics for Bonner Springs football. After a busy couple of hours during the game keeping meticulous data on each offensive and defensive play, I rushed home, transcribed my data and called in the score to area media outlets. The following morning I finalized my report and delivered it to the coach. Modern technology made this a bit easier when I could e-mail coach Lew Kasselman. It was a lot of work, but was a labor of love. I enjoyed the thrill and the challenge of getting the statistics correct and maintaining a permanent record. I guess you could say it was my hobby. One of the most enjoyable facets of keeping stats is watching young people develop and improve their skills.
I am not going to give up high school football. This year I am attending games on Thursday afternoon when the Free State Firebird freshmen play their games where my grandson, Stan, is a starting tailback. Then on Sunday afternoons I’ll be in Lawrence at football games involving grandsons Sam and Shane.
I will always bleed “black and orange,” but now I’ve added a second color. You may see me wearing the green and white of Free State, but I’ll never stop being a Bonner Springs fan.