Stevens Column: Old foes a welcome sight for new reporter
The last time I set foot on the football field at Lincoln High School, I was a 16-year-old junior at Stewartville High School, playing a section final game against the Tigers. That was in 1997, and the game, which was played in a monsoon, did not go the way of my Tigers.
Fast forward to the present day, or at least close to it. Last Friday I was back at that Lake City field for the first time in nearly 15 years, covering a football game that, once again, saw the local Tigers come away victorious.
During the game, Lake City Athletic Director Doug Vaith came over to introduce himself and to casually mention that Stewartville is something of a rival. That’s true, at least it was back in the late ‘90s.
But I found little success on the football field against Lake City. As a senior, the Tigers came to Stewartville and won a game on a late touchdown, which followed a game-tying score on a hook-and-lateral. I remember lying on the grass, next to the receiver I tackled a split-second too late, watching a running back cover 80-odd yards to pay dirt.
But that was all a long time ago, when the current Tigers were somewhere between their actual birthdays, learning to walk or stumbling through first attempts at the alphabet. Suffice to say, they probably care little about those days.
But I care, and not in a way that a team wants to beat a rival. I care because I vividly remember details from those two football games.
I remember getting beat on a deep pass in Cannon Falls and having my father, who was also my defensive coordinator, give it to me through the headset while I stood on the sideline. I remember Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s 900-pound backfield, and the lump in my throat that came when a sweep was called to my side. And I remember playing a baseball tournament in Red Wing, playing on a field I only wish I could call home.
Now, a decade-and-a-half later, those details are why I do what I do. In not too long, the kids playing on Friday night (and Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) will be trying to figure out a way to teach their twin 2-year-old daughters how to throw a ball without having to buy a new TV. At some point, a pending third child will cause more chaos in their life than anything they saw during a high school football game.
But, hopefully, they will get the chance to chat about it with someone else who remembers the color of the standing water on the field, about a trick play that was the focus of so much practice, or that they once made the sports page for scoring the first touchdown of their senior season or for hitting their first career home run against Rochester Lourdes. (The Eagles, now that’s a rival).
There are a lot of memories made on the fields, courts and rinks that so many of us call home during the school year. As R-E Sports Editor Joe Brown and I catch up from the days when he was my editor at St. Cloud State University, it’s no surprise that we often end up going back further, shaking our heads at Totino-Grace or Kasson-Mantorville, about trips to the state tournament we were denied or trying to figure out where some 9-man football team is from.
Sports are about friends and memories, and I find myself getting to work with the former while trying to record the latter for our audience. For every person who recalls a gut-punch moment from long ago, there are many others who crack a smile at the memory, just like Doug Vaith did when I mentioned those two football games.
I smiled, too, because history is history. And, like obnoxious Packers fans who like to bring up Super Bowls, I can always mention volleyball. Hey, you get every other sport from my past, at least give me that one.