SIDELINE SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
Before turning the page to a new year, here are some observations about the past year.

— When a football team goes unbeaten in conference play, you might expect the coach to win Coach of the Year honors. It didn’t work out that way in the KCAC this fall. Ottawa won the conference title, but Tabor coach Tim McCarty claimed Coach of the Year honors.

Tabor finished exactly where they were picked in the pre-season, second. More than anything, the coaching honor bestowed on McCarty reflects the respect he has earned from his colleagues for turning around the Tabor football program during the past five years.

— Tabor College volleyball coach Amy Ratzlaff continues to produce championships. Her record during the past three years is nothing short of astounding.

— How strange is it that the Tabor men’s basketball team goes winless in November and then opens with one of its best starts in conference play, 4-0?

— The collection of men and women senior student-athletes at Tabor has to be among the overall strongest in history. The number of quality football, basketball and volleyball players is unusually high.

Too bad they have to graduate.

— The Hillsboro High boys came within an eyelash of a state basketball championship. If you replayed the state tournament four times, you could easily have had four different champions.

— Hillsboro and Marion just weren’t meant to play each other in football this fall. The two teams are separated by 10 miles, but it might as well have been 500.

Each school qualified for post-season play, and both teams won a first-round game. They both lost their second-round game. Even if they had won their second-round game, they wouldn’t have played each other.

At least they’re guaranteed to play each other during the next two seasons in district play.

— In the “Strange but True Department,” did you hear about the Texas chili cook-off that got heated when one of the contestants turned out to be a crook?

According to the Washington Post, it started out as a prank, said Don Eastep, an Illinois retiree. When his brother Larry couldn’t attend the Terlingua, Texas, cook-off, Eastep competed under his brother’s name. But he had no chili. So on cook-off day, he scooped up spoonfuls of chili from some of the 80 or so contestants’ pots and entered the mishmash as his brother’s chili, figuring he had no chance.

The judges loved it, and he was declared the winner. Suspicious contestants told the judges that no one had seen Eastep cooking chili. When confronted, Eastep fessed up and turned over the winnings to the runner-up.

I realize a chili cook-off isn’t a sporting event, but like sports, it involves competition.

— Lawrence merchants aren’t as concerned about their team’s 35-game losing streak to Nebraska as they are about the potential loss of revenue should Cornhusker fans decide to stay away from Lawrence the next time the teams play there.

The night before the Kansas-Nebraska game, someone slashed the tires of about 25 vehicles bearing Nebraska license plates. The city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau put together a package of gift certificates to send to the Cornhusker fans who reported tire slashings to police.

The Kansas athletic department also sent one free ticket per vehicle for the Nebraska-Kansas game in Lawrence two years from now. It probably should have been accompanied by a letter: “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?”

— The final time mattered little to one New York City Marathon participant.

Twenty-nine hours and 45 minutes after she started, Zoe Koplowitz walked with crutches across the finish line of the New York City Marathon.

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m really happy to be sitting down,” said Koplowitz, who suffers from diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

— Here’s some sports philosophy from Shmater.com: “When you think about it, life all boils down to the ball hanging on the edge of the rim. If it goes in, you win, all your dreams come true, you attain happiness and love beyond all reason. If it misses, you lose and are relegated to second-class (or worse) status forever and life becomes an endless chore of disappointment (or worse).”

It’s an interesting philosophy, albeit a little misguided.

Happy New Year!

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