Saturday, August 05, 2006

SPORTS - First Capitol News Sports Section - MIKE MCMURRAN Sports Editor

Its almost here, my very favorite time of the year: Football season. This year will be different than any other in the McMurran household as my oldest son, Joe, will be putting on the pads for the first time. I may have mentioned it previously, still, it warrants being repeated, Joe will be playing for the O’Fallon Jr. Renegades this season. As this fine weekly hits the street, Joe will have completed his first week of practice.

Since Joe had already signed up to play soccer for Dr. Richard Heise and the defending champion Academy of the Sacred Heart Falcons, he will be playing both sports this fall. Dr. Heise has already been informed that football will take priority over soccer, meaning that should there be a scheduling conflict, Joe will play football. Ah yes, the stars are all falling in place.

Daniel, on the other hand, will still be playing year round for Tony Glavin. I must preface this by saying I am not a soccer guy – I do not particularly like nor fully understand the sport. That being said, I have watched a player or two with average ability spend a season with Glavin and turn into a completely different player. In Dee’s case, the confidence he gained while playing with Glavin clearly carried over to his CYA team. Good thing, too, because yours truly is his CYA coach. Now before someone starts screaming, “you said you were not a soccer guy,” …no, I am not. What I am though is a teacher and a dad. More importantly I know my shortcomings and understand how to compensate for them. Frankly, I prepare far more for an hour of 1st grade soccer practice than three hours of high school football practice. Never, and I truly mean, never, would I want to do a child wrong.

At least three of Dee’s team mates will also be playing Glavin this year: Evan Lemke, Adam Solomon and Devan Issacs will join Dee this fall in wearing the popular green and white trademark Glavin uniforms. There is a good chance that Parker Green will be joining them, which if nothing else pretty much guarantees Glavin’s beer sales will go up this season (not just because Parker is playing, but because of all five kids).

Maggie Kurtz McMurran will be playing her 6th year of soccer this fall. In addition to soccer she will be playing volleyball for the first time; I think the seasons run at the same time, which should prove to be interesting. As is always the case, Just Kids and The Patt Holt Singers takes priority in Margo’s life. Funny how children with the same parents can turn out so differently. Maggie enjoys soccer, basketball and softball. She has even thrown a number of shutout innings in games where the final score is measured in dozens rather than single runs. Honestly, and she admits it, she participates in sports for the social aspect of it all. Not so when it comes to her “show business” side. Oh sure, she has made some very good friends in the past 18 months or so with ‘Just Kids,’ but if someone where to join that group of performers for the social aspect of it, they would be making a big mistake. It hurts me to say this, but ‘Just Kids’ probably…no, not probably, certainly works harder on their trade than any other group of grade school children I have ever seen – bar none! That includes any soccer, softball, baseball…any athletic team I have ever seen. Any way – that is Margo’s priority, performing!

Me, in addition to coaching Dee’s 1st grade soccer team, will continue coaching Trinity Catholic High School’s varsity football team. Hopefully this year we can win more than one game; a goal that has not been achieved in more than 4 years. I have also agreed to help out with Joe’s Jr. Renegade football team. So my schedule will evolve around my kid’s athletic practices and game schedules.

Some have asked, “Why don’t you coach any of Maggie’s team?” It is a valid question that deserves a response. Coaching boys and girls is as different as night and day – maybe even more different. Girls are nothing more than little women – and to this day, and I am almost 52 years old, I cannot figure out women or girls. Sorry, I just cannot do it.

Which is not to say that some can, and do a very good job at it. For example, my friend Mark Francis has success in coaching girls in both soccer and softball. He watched me coach baseball once and asked why I had my team running from home plate to the foul line and back. “That’s no fun,” he offered. No, no its not, but it teaches unconditional discipline – something needed in sports, at least boys’ sports. On my teams, what I say is the law; I think it is called “old school.” Mark on the other hand has the unattractive task of keeping 14 or so 5th grade girls from killing him, his staff, and each other. Of course he is smart enough to surround himself with very good assistants, in both soccer and softball.

One of those very good assistants, Jim Barnason, suffered a heart attack and died recently while pursuing his passion of riding his bike. Jim’s daughter, Sydney, a classmate of my daughter, in addition to being a teammate in soccer and softball, is also in ‘Just Kids.’ Jim had a way with not only the girls on the softball team, but their brothers, both young and old. My youngest son, Dee told me “every time I saw Mr. Barnason he would pick me up and throw me in the air.” Francis was with out a doubt the head coach. Jim was, with out a doubt, his right hand man.

I have never seen a wake the likes of Jim’s; a testimony to his life. After standing in line for well over an hour, Lynn and I finally reached his lovely wife, Melissa. Those who know me know that I have the uncanny ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time; I have it mastered. So as we approached Melissa I pretty much let Lynn do the talking. Then it struck me, and I uttered to Melissa, “have you any idea how long this line is?” She didn’t, and I replied: “Its longer than the line at Taco Bell at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning.” It wasn’t said to be funny, it was the only thing I could think of to say. I don’t think she was faking when she smiled and laughed.

To Sydney and Melissa, Family McMurran’s prayers are with you. Jim was many, many things – above all he was genuine and sincere. From my perspective, he didn’t always say what was wanted to be heard, but you could bet your bottom dollar, if it came from Jim’s mouth, it was the truth.