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Local Sports

The Pressbox

Athletic competition fuels compelling stories

While I don’t like every sport, I do love good stories. Athletic competition weaves some of the most compelling stories. A lot of the “national” stories are told with movies. In movies, there is a little literary license taken from time to time.

Recently, I watched “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” a movie about the 1913 U.S. Open golf tournament and an amateur golfer — Francis Ouimet. Ouimet was the first amateur to win the U.S. Open, beating British champion Harry Vardon and others. He never turned professional.

I never pass up an opportunity to watch “Miracle,” the movie about Herb Brooks coaching the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and the “Do you believe in miracles? Yes,” team of amateur American hockey players who defeated the USSR Soviet team at Lake Placid, and went on to win the gold medal.

A couple other sport movies in my home collection are “Glory Road” and “Secretariat.” Secretariat was my horse — I loved watching him run and, like the rest of America, fell in love with “Big Red” and his

Triple Crown run. I know what’s going to happen in each of those races in the film but I love it. I watched on my television as the Miracle on Ice unfolded but I’m still enthralled with the stories the movie tells of the coaches and players on that team.

One of the great stories I’ve read recently is the book “Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen.” The best seller by New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape chronicles a quest by Smith Center, Kan., High School’s football team for a fifth consecutive state title in 2008. The Redmen had won 56 straight games going into that season and held the nation’s longest high-school winning streak. The story is about the players, a philosophy of life taught by Smith Center’s legendary coach, Roger Barta, the community and the heartland of America.

“Our Boys” was a citywide read for Iola, Kan., the community I lived in before coming to Newton, and is a tremendous book to sit and read.

I read about Don Haskins and Texas Western University, now University of Texas-El-Paso, when I was in college. It was part of my sports journalism history course. So when “Glory Road,” came out, I wanted to own the movie. The historic significance  of the Miners’ run with “the best players on the court” to an NCAA national basketball championship. The Miners beat powerhouse Kentucky in the title game with the first-ever all-African-American lineup.

I could go on and on. My point is, I love a good story. I’ve been fortunate over the past 30-plus years to relate the stories of the local variety. I have some others, such as the 1985 World Series in Kansas City. Yeah, the one St. Louis fans can’t let go of much like the Boston fans keep ahold of the Bill Buckner story, etc. The thing is both of those “mishaps” happened in Game 6 of their respective World Series. Sure, it prevented the Cardinals and Red Sox from winning that night but they had opportunities to win the World Series in Game 7. St. Louis did not show up in Game 7 — I was there at the stadium, sitting up behind home plate covering the game. The Red Sox led in their Game 7 of the 1986 World Series against the Mets.

No, my stories are about a high school girls’ basketball team, down by seven with just over a minute to play in the state tournament’s third-place game. One of its “Twin Towers” — 6-4 twin sisters — had fouled out of the game. They rallied to win.

Or, about a high school football team breaking a three-year losing streak. Or, about a young girl who competed in the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick contest, making it to the national finals three times. The story of an unbeaten, top-ranked Class 1A boys’ basketball team seemingly on its way to a state championship, derailed in a first-round upset and the heartbreak of it all to the players, their coaches and fans.

A group of older men still playing and competing at a high level in softball or co-ed pool teams winning a trip to national tournaments, or the athletes competing in Special Olympics are all stories that are compelling.

There are similar stories here in Newton and the surrounding area. I, and the Newton Daily News, look for such stories every day. Some we find, but we also need help discovering them. So, please, if you have a story let us know!

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