We have a catch phrase here in the Daily Herald's high school sports department reserved for those tough times of the school year:
'Is it June yet?'
From our perspective, one of the most difficult parts of bringing the right level of the attention to the various sports is the intrinsically chaotic nature of high school activities.
I am reminded, naturally, of last year's football season openers, many of which were not completed on Opening Night due to lightning.
That made for a tense opening weekend of coverage -- and it only seemed to set the tone for the school year that followed.
The Winter That Never Ended brought an unusual phenomenon, with events being cancelled by, of all things, sheer frigidity.
And when at long last, spring sports finally did get going, it was the usual array of rainouts and rescheduled contests, I guess nothing really out of the ordinary. But I think everyone's nerves were frayed by that point, and I'm fairly certain we set a Daily Herald record for that familiar utterance: 'Is it June yet?'
Of course, yes, June did eventually arrive, and our high school staffers recharged, hit the reset button.
And here we are again, renewed, another high school sports season about to kick off. No offense to the golfers and other athletes who already have a few results in the book, but the school year truly starts, at least in a communal sense, with the first football games of the year.
With that in mind, and before the last whiffs of sunscreen fade away, I thought I'd publicly recognize some important things my summerized brain has been pondering.
In this current state, I am relaxed yet focused, 100 percent certain we are starting a school year which will be devoid of weather delays, blown calls, concussions, transfers, overtime, athletic code violations and misspelled names.
• I am deeply envious of the district-issued digital device my freshman son is toting with him to high school every day.
• When traveling outside the Chicago area, do not count upon your favored sub shop franchise to provide the cherished giardiniera.
• The waters of Lake Superior are wickedly cold, even in early August, but when swimming in a 2.2-mile race one scarcely notices this.
• Pro baseball remains a curiousity hereabouts. Both teams have serious issues, but of the two I'd say the Cubs have the brighter future. I mean, just think of what they'll be able to accomplish post-puberty.
• Can't wait until I see Buffalo Grove's new pool in person for the first time.
• At one point in early August, the rear storage portion of my vehicle was stuffed to the top with water polo balls, fishing equipment, swimming supplies and assorted beach and camping gear. I found this to be delightful.
• Palatine's Streetfest celebration is noticeably better when shared with a good friend, who in turn shares his beverages with you. Thanks, Quags.
• I work with great people. Many of them you may know, likely full-time staffers Orrin Schwarz, Kevin Schmit, Dave Oberhelman, John Lemon, Joe Aguilar, Patricia Babcock McGraw, John Radtke, Jerry Fitzpatrick and John Leusch. We're all very different people with one important thing in common: A firm belief in the value of publicizing high school sports. This same trait is found in the many freelance writers who roam the sidelines for us, and with our in-office support folks who help produce our daily scoreboard material. I'm so very proud to be associated with everybody on our Daily Herald roster.
• My wife is about to become the shortest person in our immediate family. I'm giving her another two weeks, tops, before the sixth-grader overtakes her.
• Rigorous research has revealed that a fundamental precept of summer swimming still applies: Extended exposure to sun and chlorine will bleach your hair. In my case, the brown has gone blonde, and the grey is more silvery and thus blends in with the blonde. In sports parlance, this is known as a win-win scenario -- though further research is required to corroborate the ongoing decline in total hair volume.
• All day, every day, I'll take a high school frosh-soph game in any sport over the best NFL preseason matchup you can dream up.
• There is honor and value in simply trying your hardest, irrespective of the outcome. I was reminded of this recently while watching Tom Gallagher as he was officiating summer league youth water polo games. The former Schaumburg coach had a great run with his final polo team several years ago, which broke new ground for the program by qualifying for the state's Elite Eight. It was tough when his Saxons bowed out -- the players were naturally disappointed by the loss, but for Gallagher it was something more -- a poetic end to a distinguished head coaching career for someone who loved it deeply.
In preparation for the new school year, I was clearing off my desk and came across my notes from that final interview I had with Gallagher on the deck at Stevenson High School following that poignant loss. Among other things, he told me, "Sports teaches kids things the classroom just can't."
June can wait.
Now, let's see some football.