Column/The end is near, and I see the light

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 25, 2007

Someone asked me if I had fun covering the AISA and AHSAA state playoffs the past weeks.

Well, it depends on which part of the experience we’re talking about.

If we’re talking about the sleep deprivation, the oil tanker it took to fuel my numerous trips to Montgomery or the fact that I’ve eaten more junk food in 16 days than I have in the past six months …

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Umm, not so much.

But there were good moments.

Like the time I was dozing in the media hospitality room at the Joe L. Reed Acadome at Alabama State.

I was awoken by the sound of a bouncing ball and players chanting something I couldn’t quite understand. Their coach interrupted all the noise and said, “All right, let’s go.”

The hair on the back of my neck stood up.

There’s the look on a player’s face when he or she knows the next game is turning from dream to reality.

There’s the look on players’ faces when they realize this game will be the last.

There was Auburn coach Jeff Lebo sitting at the end of press row trying to figure out which kid he should convince to come be part of his program.

There’s drama, there’s emotion, there’s really questionable referee calls, there’s coaches wondering why in the world they let a bunch of adolescents put them through this and there is constant motion.

You cannot fully grasp the impact of high school playoff basketball unless you’re sitting so close to the players you can literally smell their deodorant wearing off. It’s one of the most beautiful things in sports.

Well, maybe not the whole deodorant thing, but everything else is pretty much a plus.

All week, coaches kept coming up to me and saying, “Thanks for coming.”

At first, I was like, “What? Don’t you realize I’m getting paid to be here?”

Then I realized where they were coming from. They were also losing sleep. The parents who followed their kids were taking time off work. They were road weary and anxious.

It’s easier on me, as a matter of fact, because I’ve no emotional investment in the games.

But I want to thank the coaches and players for making my job fun. I want to thank the parents for their support. I want to thank the Alabama State staff for the job they did during the week.

And I want to thank any fan of the game.

And the great part of it all is, it’s not over quite yet.

Who would have thought R.C. Hatch would be the only team from the area to make it to Birmingham?

Some really strong clubs fell this past week, as you all know.

But that’s the way tournament-style play is. Everybody has a shot against anybody – also another beautiful thing about sports.

When will college football figure that much out? Probably about the same time cheating in sports becomes unpopular.

Not to sound too pessimistic, or anything.

Anyway, I digress. What were we talking about, again?

Oh right. High school basketball.

The Bobcats have their shot at a second consecutive 2A state championship this week, and anyone that’s seen them knows they have as good a chance as any team on any level in Birmingham. Maybe even better.

As my crazy uncle Lucious would put it, “Dem boys scrong.”

But don’t think for a second I’m falling in love with hoops and pushing baseball aside.

The first major league spring training games begin this week and Opening Day is April 5.

I feel like singing a song now.

“Put me in coach.

I’m ready to play – today …”

George L. Jones is sports editor of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at (334) 410-1744 or .