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Obviously, it is difficult to get around and wish happy holidays to all those I have come in contact with while covering sports here for the last year.
But I want to extend the season’s best to these people especially:
• Those who travel around the state, the Southeast and the country to support their children’s athletic endeavors.
• Those who travel the same roads to support other people’s children and their pursuits.
• Those who punch the clock, then change clothes, skip dinner and head to the diamond, court or field to teach and coach youngsters.
• Those who have chosen teaching and coaching as a career. Many toil in the shadows and might feel underappreciated. They are not.
• Those who, after the final school bell, stow the books, put on their practice threads and run and jump and throw and lift and shoot and kick and learn new skills.
• Those who have no aspirations other than to learn those skills and perform them to the best of their abilities.
• Those who submit their talents to a team game and toil in obscurity. Especially to those football players whose uniform numbers are in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
• Those who perform far from large and loud crowds. To the gymnasts, competitive cheerleaders, marksmen (air rifle and shotgun), runners and others.
• Those who submit themselves to coaching and learn to accept constructive criticism, although they might not appreciate or understand it – or the way it was delivered – at the time
• Those who shoot at baskets with no twine, run on fields bereft of sod or fire at goals with no nets.
• Those of you who will wake this morning a find a ball of any description, bat, glove, putter, skates, rod and reed or racquet under the tree.
• Those who enjoy Friday nights as much – or more – than Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
• Those who quietly write checks to support local athletics.
• Those who play junior varsity, ninth-grade, eighth-grade, seventh-grade and sixth-grade sports.
• Those who have played and never hit a home run, scored a touchdown or put one in the back of the net.
• Those who applaud the other team.
• The wives and mothers who hold dinner until practice is over.
• Those who played with a baseball wrapped in friction tape.
• Every wrestler who performs without a turnbuckle.
• Those working on their vault, beam, bars and floor routines.
• Those whose attics are filled with Moultrie Packers memorabilia.
• Those who sit and unashamedly keep score at baseball games.
• Those who still dream of rolling a 300 game.
• Those who don’t care what their handicap is or what flight they are placed in.
• Those who officiate the games, make the schedules, run the clocks, line the fields, tend the sod, take the photographs, wash the uniforms, mix the Gatorade, wrap the ankles, sell the concessions and drive the buses.
To all of you who contribute to making sports a compelling part of our community culture, Merry Christmas.
This column first appeared in The Observer’s Christmas Day 2001 edition.