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Laid-back summer coming to a close

July 29, 2011
The Mining Journal

Can you believe it's almost fall sports season again?

Marquette Senior High School, for example, already issued equipment to football players more than a week ago, and several Redmen and Redettes sports like cross country and girls tennis will begin practicing in less than two weeks with their first meets and matches about three weeks away.

So while there's still a little bit of July left, I wanted to look back at some of the more laid-back summer sports programs. Laid-back more on the part of us fans, certainly not in their competition.

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Baseball and softball get most of our attention here at the Journal with all their regularly scheduled contests, though I was impressed with the near-overflowing parking lot at the Kaufman Sports Complex last week for all the soccer and BMX activity going on there.

The BMX track, my destination that day, was abuzz with activity, particularly with youngsters, since it doesn't really have much in the way of adults racing except for some dads and a few moms.

After my BMX story ran this week, I got an indignant email from someone saying I was discouraging adults from taking part in BMX. Sorry, I was just observing the makeup of those who race there. They don't turn away adults, they just don't have a big turnout with them.

The Sands Raceway has a busy schedule every Saturday for another month, with what sounds like a overhaul of the grounds this season to make them more spectator friendly. I haven't been out there, since Saturdays keep me busy here at the Journal. But it sounds like something definitely worth visiting one of these days.

So back to baseball and softball. We've got an Oldtimers game coming up tonight at Hurley Field in Marquette between the home team and Negaunee. They play a pretty good brand of ball, better than you might expect from the 62-to-82-year-old class. And they probably have more fun doing it than their kids and some of their grandkids, too.

Little League baseball and softball is just finishing up the last of the state tournament with the 9- and 10-year-olds from Negaunee visiting Comerica Park before at Detroit Tigers game tonight with tournament play beginning Saturday.

With one glaring exception - an out-of-town visitor at one of the All-Star district games - I was greatly impressed with the emphasis put on sportsmanship nowadays. Not the sportsmanship of the players - no, they've always been pretty good about that.

It's the sportsmanship of the adults that has improved so dramatically.

I can remember too many bad ol' days of coaches screaming at kids barely of school age, and even worse, parents and other spectators doing the same thing outside the fences. Because of the dimensions of the fields for kids who are often only three or four feet tall, it wasn't very far from those young, impressionable ears.

I first saw changes in this attitude nearly a decade ago when I visited my sister's family downstate. She told me about how tightly they were controlling fan behavior at my two nephews' T-ball and "coaches pitch" leagues.

I had to see it to believe it, but once I attended a game, I believed it - and I believe in it.

This overall friendliness doesn't always translate up to the older age groups, but I can live with that. Kids should be better equipped to handle criticism, heckling or whatever you want to call it once they get well into their teen years.

I've seen that a bit this summer at American Legion baseball games, especially with the Marquette Blues and Negaunee Diamonds.

Let's just say that tempers got a little frayed as the season went on. Maybe it was playing a number of their games on hot days, but I still remember the doubleheader played in Negaunee in late June when the umpires had to warn the teams not to talk to each other.

The umps themselves weren't getting abused like they so often do, but they could see a volatile situation with a fair amount of "banter" between the teams.

Nothing bad happened, however, to the credit of both teams and their coaching staffs.

I'd like to think some of the rivalry went back to these guys' high school seasons as Marquette looks to have re-emerged as a football power and re-established itself as just as good as Negaunee in basketball.

As long as it doesn't get out of hand, I guess you can say it adds a little spice to the otherwise laid-back attitudes most of us have in the summer.

Bring on the fall!

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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