Archive for Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Which football is king in big ol’ Texas?

August 6, 2003

When embarking on road trips in the past few years, sports usually has been the reason for the excursion.

Wherever I was headed outside of northeast Kansas, the destination was the venue for an NCAA basketball tournament, a college football game or one last opportunity to see Michael Jordan play in the NBA.

Last week, though, my trip wasn't sports-motivated.

But, as it turned out, I managed to find a game to watch and stadiums to see.

Spending a few days in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I spent a short vacation in Texas with my brother and his family with the intention of relaxing with relatives.

As it turned out, my nephew was knee-deep in what is known outside of the Unites States as football.

With a snazzy uniform, Jacob, who is 10, hit the soccer field at Richland College in Dallas with the Odyssey Soccer Club, a select team in the 10-and-younger age group.

One can judge from my physique that American football -- not soccer -- is my forte, but I still found myself coaching my nephew in some capacity and cheering when the Odyssey scored (unfortunately, that happened only once in a 4-1 defeat).

Nonetheless, the game was entertaining, especially after witnessing the post-goal celebration after the opponents' first score.

After one of the players scored, he greeted fellow teammates with the traditional mid-air chest bump. This celebration went smoothly until the youngster who had just scored put a little extra effort into one bump. His teammate fell backward onto the ground, hitting the back of his head on the turf. Interestingly enough, during the next three scores the celebration was much more somber.

Soccer certainly has become quite popular throughout the country in the youth ranks. But in Texas, it still has to sit in the back of the truck with basketball and baseball while football drives.

Professional basketball has shined recently with clubs in Dallas and San Antonio thriving. Baseball has become quite strong on the collegiate level (Rice won the College World Series and Texas was last year's CWS champion).

But no matter how the Cowboys fare in the NFL, football always will be king the Lone Star state.

With the book "Friday Night Lights" by H.G. Bissinger as a prime example, football ranks closely with the Alamo and J.R. Ewing in the Lone Star State.

High school football complexes in the Dallas/Fort Worth are mammoth. With substantial seating and press boxes that resemble those at Kansas universities Washburn, Emporia State and Pittsburg State, prep football down south is big-time. Some stadiums even include artificial turf, which happens to be the same direction Garden City is taking in southwest Kansas. Although it might seem overboard on the prep level, hot and dry climates, plus multiple teams playing on the field, equals a logical nod to the fake grass.

Football also is gargantuan in Garden City between the high school and college ranks, but these days the most excitement comes at the junior college level. Even there, the Broncbusters have a Texas influence -- four players on last year's roster hail from the state.

In Texas, last weekend's headlines weren't about football, but rather shopping extravaganzas. Tabbed as tax-free days (Texas actually is one of nine states to offer the discount), consumers could buy certain practical items without tax. What a perfect time for the "holiday," with school just around the corner.

Surpisingly, football helmets and pads didn't fit the criteria for tax-exempt items.

Although parents couldn't score a discount on their children's athletic equipment, they will be readying themselves for the coming season. After all, preseason practice will be approaching in the next few weeks.

As for me, I couldn't stay away from the sports world -- even for a few days. That certainly wasn't the objective, but it's clear I can't separate myself from sports.

Oh, by the way, fall practice for Kansas high school teams starts up Aug. 17, the Chiefs open the regular season Sept. 7 against San Diego at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas State opens the season at the same place Aug. 23, Kansas begins the football season Aug. 30 against Northwestern and the Royals quite possibly could be in the major league playoffs in early October.

We don't have Texas football, but the local sports scene could get zany quite soon.

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