It’s a wonderful (local sports) life


Grandmas, man. Grandmas.

An angry senior citizen is not to be trifled with.

It’s one of the lessons acquired over many years of covering high school sports.

After a softball game earlier this season, an undoubtedly normally-kind lady let me know just how poor of a job she believed we were doing of highlighting the team in which she had a rooting interest.

The following day, upon reading the story of said game, my new elderly fan called the office to say the article met her approval and that she no longer wanted to beat me to a pulp.

When it comes to being protective of their student-athletes, grandmothers top the list of all fans who will not hesitate to voice an opinion. My first When Grandmas Attack experience happened in a soccer press box, where I was so caught off guard I might as well have been body slammed by Hulk Hogan.

Looking back, it’s comical. But, I wouldn’t trade this fan interaction for the world.

The passion is one of the benefits of covering sports in a small, close-knit community. No matter the apparent significance — or insignificance — of a seemingly routine game, match or meet — it means a lot to someone.

Here’s what else I love about Hancock County sports.

The kids continu

e to impress

Thursday marked the three-year anniversary of the death of former Greenfield-Central student Kaylee Lauderdale, who succumbed to a ruptured appendix on April 30, 2012, shortly after her 16th birthday. I realized it’s the anniversary only because Parker West pointed it out.

West, an Eastern Hancock senior who occasionally writes a running column for this newspaper, planned to mark Lauderdale’s initials on his arm prior to the Royals’ meet Thursday, with West promising on Twitter to post a personal-best time in memory of Lauderdale, with whom he was friends.

A local 12-year-old, Tandess O’Neal, has taken it upon herself to organize a charity outing at Arrowhead Golf Course in Greenfield on May 30 to help families at Riley Hospital for Children, where a toddler of a family friend was treated for cancer before recently passing away.

Each Christmas, dozens of high school athletes from Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon, New Palestine and Eastern Hancock spend part of their holiday break performing charitable endeavors at food banks, soup kitchens and the like. Over summer vacation, it’s organizations such as Habitat for Humanity that benefit from our teams’ goodwill.

In an age when some wonder, “What is this world coming to?” I look around confidently that the future is in good hands.

The action isn’t bad, either

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, attendance at prep sporting events topped 500 million in 2011-12, more than college and professional sports fan attendance combined. For $5 or so per ticket, free parking and cheap concessions, high school sports spectators are getting their money’s worth.

Here in the county, we’ve seen 30-shot penalty kick soccer shootouts, 80-point football games, eight-second pins and a host of Indianapolis-area and Division I-bound basketball stars who have visited our gymnasiums.

There have been odd occurrences: Indiana Pacers mascot Boomer breaking a backboard during a prep halftime dunking exhibition at New Palestine. And the special: Eastern Hancock’s Victor Vincz and Alexandria’s Mitch Yeagy each topping 50 points — in the same basketball game.

Even if the game doesn’t involve a team or individual state champ, of which the county has produced several in the last decade, admission to a sporting event consistently offers intriguing entertainment.

Not die-hard fan? No problem

Rarely a fall, winter or spring season goes by without multiple area athletes ripping a knee ligament or breaking a bone. And they come back. Just one example: gymnast Annabelle Dockins took to the uneven bars at the state finals for the Dragons in a full-length leg brace.

I’ve seen athletes face the death of a parent. And the athlete comes back. Just one example: wrestler Josh Farrell lost his dad to an auto accident, then captured a state crown for the Cougars.

The inspiration never ceases.

And just in case I ever start to take it for granted, I know there will be a grandma somewhere ready to snap me into focus.