Saturday, March 17, 2007

First Capitol News Sports - Mike McMurran Sports Editor

Have you ever wondered how and why I write about what I write about in my column? There were a few of you out there last week who suggested that the Councilman from ward one and I were conspiring last week when we both wrote about the UMSL name change – nope, pure coincidence. The fact is I never know what I am going to write about until I sit down at the keyboard. Oh sure, sometimes I have an idea, but for the most part the closer it gets to deadline the faster my brain works.

As is true in most endeavors in life, good things come to those who wait. No sooner than I received my weekly phone call from Tony telling me the deadline was drawing near, I received a phone call from Saint Charles resident Ryan Wallace. As regular readers know, Ryan is the head football coach at beautiful Jennings High School. He is a graduate of Zumwalt South, played college ball and graduated from Missouri Valley, and has a Master’s degree from Lindenwood University. He and I served as assistant coaches at Jennings for a couple of years and struck up a rather odd friendship. Ryan is some 22 years younger than I, but other than chronological age out measures me in most areas – most, I remind you.

You see Ryan has the intelligence to know when to keep his mouth shut – something I’m still learning. He has an uncanny ability to always have the politically correct response – even though what he might be thinking is as incorrect, if not vulgar, as can be. What we have in common is the love of football, in particular the love of offensive line play. It’s something one has to experience to fully understand. No matter how angry Wallace gets at me for one of the many, many stupid things I might say, he knows I know how to teach the proper technique for a three point stance. He knows I know the proper footwork for a pulling guard. He knows that I know good offensive linemen have (a) big heads (literally), (b) big butts, (c) are organized almost to a fault, (d) think in a concrete and structured manner, and (e) have a high tolerance for pain – at least think they do.

This past season at Jennings was undeniably the most successful football season in the school’s history. The team finished with a 9-2 record and won their first Suburban East title in the school’s history. They won their district rather easily, and almost pulled off what would have been the biggest upset of the year against Parkway North. I should modify the last sentence: the only one’s who wouldn’t have called it an upset would have been Wallace, his coaching staff and his players. They knew they were going to win – which is the only way to go into a game.

Anyway, as I was sitting down to write this week’s column, Wallace called and we chatted ever so briefly. I mentioned to him I would love to have a “Jennings football tee shirt” he had designed to commemorate the season. “You like those, do you?” he asked in his satirical, condescending manner. “Yes,” I replied, “they remind me of the shirts I designed the second year you and I coached together – the color scheme and all.” “Oh yeah,” he yelped, “I’ve been waiting 20 years to design a tee-shirt with the schedule on the back depicting a conference title. All through high school, college, and my first five or six years at Jennings I never was part of a conference champion to this year.” I shared with him how I understood his excitement – as I too had recently experienced something very similar.
You see this past summer my son Joe’s baseball team won their division in the Atom I league at St. Peter’s Athletic Association – and what did we do? We had tee shirts made with the schedule and results printed on the back. Not only that, we had our team e.r.a. of 4.00 (the lowest out of 25 teams) and our winning streak of 10 games (the longest out of 50 teams) printed right below the schedule just like Wallace did with his football team.

Why do I make mention of all this? The answer is in the last sentence of the second paragraph and the last sentence of the third paragraph of this narrative. You see (a) I had the honor of designing my tee shirts some 5 months prior to Wallace and (b) offensive linemen are highly, highly competitive – no matter what the competition might be.

See you next week.