Let’s be honest. If we could, we would play football all year-round. Unfortunately, as those of us at the Daily News Sports Department can attest to from attending Wednesday’s playoff games, such a practice would be border-line inhumane. Weather controls us all. It alters our behaviors, moods and practices, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
What the stormy weather on Wednesday night indicated to me is that it is time to move sports in doors, and there is plenty to be excited about. Basketball has been my favorite sport to play since I was 5 years old. You can argue otherwise if you like, but basketball seems to be the only game where it doesn’t matter what you look like or how big you are. All that matters is “can you ball?”
Last year, I arrived when basketball season was in full swing. My first game covered was a Newton girls’ game, and aside from being alarmed at the lack of a shot clock, it was an event that brought some comfort for me, someone who had just uprooted his entire life and moved 2,000 miles northeast.
Those first few weeks were crucial to me. There were some tough days and nights, but I endured in part because of the solace I found at basketball games. Most of the time, those were the only places where I truly felt at home. I’ve spent more time on a basketball court in my life than almost anywhere else, so being able to spend most of my winter nights watching some phenomenal young ballers run the floor gave me a feeling of ease.
I know what these people are feeling. I know what is going through their heads. I’ve been there, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Being able to watch the dominant Prairie City-Monroe boys team spread the ball around with ease or the Lynnville-Sully girls take down an undefeated North Mahaska team resonated with me. It was a familiar feeling at a point in my life when I was searching all around me for anything of the sort.
On the other hand, you have the sport of wrestling, which symbolizes everything I was feeling at the time. I had no experience with wrestling, zero. The only thing I knew about wrestling was watching Goldberg jackhammer guys or The Rock telling people to know their role and shut their mouths as a kid. I kind of figured that’s not what I was in store for.
When I was able to cover a dual, it was the Little Hawkeye Conference meet. And while now that I look back on the story I wrote, the terminology seems pretty sub par, it was still a transformative experience for me. At that first meet, I was very under the weather. My head was pounding. I still had a torn ACL, so I couldn’t kneel or really sit down on the mats to take pictures, which resulted in plenty of parents to remark, “Down in front!” Thanks for that.
All that aside, I had a blast. The energy from the crowd along with the raw emotion exhibited from the coaches and athletes showed me what amateur wrestling was truly about, and all of a sudden, I’m on my couch watching wrestling on the B1G TEN network — something I would have never guessed I would be doing.
It was just after the state meet at the Wells Fargo center when I felt like I could really fit in Iowa. Agony, exaltation, adrenaline, sorrow — all those emotions were in full display across all eight mats going. That solidified my belief that I understand what it’s like here. It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted. It’s sports stripped of any and all superficiality.