, Muskogee, OK

November 25, 2013

My how times have changed

By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor

— A lot of reflection was done this week on that fateful November week in 1963 when the NFL decided to proceed with games just days after the assassination of President Kennedy.

Television wasn’t a launching pad of NFL attention just yet. Even still, there was a great deal of discomfort among those still around who were a part of that decision. It’s something we can’t begin to fathom happening in today’s world.

These days, the tendency isn’t just to react to national tragedy, as we should. It goes beyond that to  includes conditions that would insult the hard-working person who faithfully delivers your mail under the slogan “neither rain, nor sleet nor snow...”

Case in point: The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association this past weekend.

Winter weather hit the state on Friday and the OSSAA left it up to the schools to decide whether they played or not. All it took was for one opponent to blow the whistle and the game would be moved to Saturday.

By kickoff time Friday night, 21 games were put on hold, including three Class 6A games.

One of those was the Class 3A clash between Beggs and Checotah. Fifty-two miles separate the two schools if you take the seemingly safe route of U.S. 75 and Interstate 40.  

On the other hand, Woodward braved the 250-mile trip to play Wagoner.  

Much of the concern wasn’t about braving the elements but the drive home in the final hours of evening when any moisture on the roads would, it was presumed, freeze, making for potentially dangerous driving for those behind bus wheels.

Well, Hilldale’s busses made the trip to Metro Christian, 57 miles one way, and returned home safely.  For 2 1/2 hours in between, two teams battled frigid conditions and damp if not sprinkling conditions.

Fans finding seats had to walk with caution as the rain from earlier in the day had frozen on the bleachers. Hey, even us scribes and webstreamers had to tough it out – in an open-air press box. Typing became painful, but hey, it’s part of the job. You needed something to read come Saturday.

Over at Wagoner, Woodward’s bus headed home after the game.

Granted, no one could accurately predict the weather midday Friday when the panic buttons began getting buzzed. And I certainly understand the risk of driving on ice.

But in another sense, there are days gone by where the games went on – rain, sleet or snow. My  high school in Texas had a game in a deluge. A field at Denton High School resembled Lake Eufaula under Noah-like conditions.  The game went on.

Two college games were rain-delayed into the wee hours the past two years – Tulsa-OSU and TCU-Texas.

Anyone remember the 1979 Cotton Bowl between Houston and Notre Dame, played on a sleet-covered field? It was the first miracle I saw Joe Montana pull off in the clutch, down 34-12 and winning 35-34. And he had to do it with the flu.

It may be in a sense, safe to yield to nature, but it hasn’t always been that way.

The Ice Bowl, 1967? I thought of famed NFL football play-by-play man Ray Scott’s famous words as I coined my own phrase on Friday: “It is indeed cold in this press box.”

And over those years, memories were made.

Hey, Hilldale had a little bit of that Friday – as did I – and I’d bet that years from now they’ll reminisce about the night they froze but beat Metro Christian to get a shot at a quarterfinal game at home, all those 18 seniors.

Checotah didn’t get that chance Friday, and wound up losing to Beggs on Saturday. Ironically, a mishandled snap inside the Beggs 10 cost Checotah a shot at a go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute to go.

It was just as cold on the hands Saturday as it was Friday.

Who knows? Maybe the grip would have been better Friday.

And we can only guess the amount of  deer hunting that was postponed Saturday to play a game they didn’t have to delay.

Playoff deer hunting in Vian is tradition, but on Saturday, the day after the playoff game. Football remained at Vian on Friday, maybe in the spirit of preserving that other tradition.

Everyone made it home safely.

Ah, the stories that were being missed in 21 other venues.

Oh, and this is all about football weather.

I think we forgot that.