WITH HIS WIFE AND MOTHER IN LAW
A high school reunion brings 'em back, friends and teammates.
You see the big guys smaller and the small guys bigger. And the rest of us.
But that's not what you see on a family trip through a sports past. When it's your sports past you're going through, accompanied by your two ladies, you'll need a few tips for the first time.
- Mention every school in your high school district, their nick names, and why you still hate them with the bitterness reserved for Nazis and over-zealous gym teachers.
- Wave in the direction of every football field you've ever played on, whether you suited up for the game or the pep squad. Every Boomer has seen enough football to give at least one play by play. Put yourself in it.
- Point at the bridge you ran over, every morning, all weather, hurricane or not. Accuse it of attempted murder. Then drive it slow-ride style. Take it easy.
You're getting closer.
After the warm-ups, you pass into North Bend city limits, explain where you're going and how you'll get there.
Show them Broadway. Do a show with,
- The longest skid of your life, the one you flash-back to with every NASCAR crash in the news.
- The dip in the hill road that makes your belly jump.
- The wooded sand dunes where you used to climb and fall out of trees to a soft landing.
Cruise town looking for everything that reminds you of where you've been. Every city has small towns on every block, in every section. Coming from a real small town makes them easier to spot.
Turn the corner and the biggest show in town unfolds.
One hundred yards of prime real estate butts up against a high school service road, one hundred yards of dreams and hopes that it's not the last you'll ever see.
But if it was the last football field you ever see, The Vic Adams Field and Frank Shriver Track that is home to THE North Bend Bulldogs, you'd leave happy.
No one mistakes this southwest coast town for the SEC, but there is a look of commitment from the community that takes it to another level. The contrast between the bright turf surrounded by a fast track comes into focus with the ladies' questions of the past.
- Why would you water a field on a rainy day?
- How can a high tide matter to football?
- You had cinders on a dirt track when you went here?
The good thing about a small town is the sample size. Fewer people remember how it used to be, but it doesn't change history.
The joy of seeing facilities you expect from Texas high school football moves up a sports notch after a thirty mile roadie south on 101 to the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. You go from a top-shelf turf field to a world-class sports venue and the feeling is breathless.
World Class? Oregon coast?
Similar qualities come with both world class resorts and high dollar cult retreats, which isn't to say golf is a cult. The staff for each wears identifying uniforms that match the carts, the cars, and the buses. The resort housing and clubhouses conform to a unifying style that spells m-o-n-e-y.
Most of all, a drive through fills you with the urge to stay and flee at the same time. Stay and empty your wallet playing the same bad golf you pay ten bucks for at an over-55 community course. Flee and you'll have enough money for a six dollar-in-Portland-pint that goes for two fifty in a Bandon bar.
So flee it is.
The bar chosen was the home of the King of Bandon Dunes and his caddy pals. These are the guys who walk the links for two rounds of eighteen holes a day. Working ten to twelve hour days. In other words, sports nirvana.
A multicultural group sat on bar stools talking the afternoon away. It was inside group talk about events they've been to and people they've worked for. It was a group ripe for a blogger to horn in on.
"I've never played Bandon. Is it the best course in the world?"
"On a good day, it is. On a bad day, it is."
"How do you score that?" I asked.
"If it's not the best, then someone must be building a new course."
"Okay. But there's four courses here. Which one is the best?"
"Me? I like the original, the one that put Bandon Dunes on the map. I could walk that one every day the rest of my life and die happy."
"It's that good?"
"Better than that good. If I wasn't working it or playing, it's still the best place."
"You sound like a homer. You're from around here?"
"Not originally, but I am now. I hope to stay here forever."
"In this bar?"
"In this town. Doing what I'm doing. All of it. I've found my place on earth. Right here."
"You're the sort of guy who makes a place better than it was before you showed up. You've sunk roots here."
"That's what it feels like. And that's why I'm buying you the next round."
"You are the King of Bandon Dunes."
"As the King, I want to know which of the two ladies sitting on the other side is married to you?"
"As a subject of the King of Bandon Dunes, I want to point out the two ladies who just sat on the other side of you."
"Well played. You may become a Knight before long."
"Would that get me a free round of golf?"
"My powers do not extend that far, but it did get you a free beer."
"For that I salute the King, and his kingdom."
In sports there's a drive to make it to the big time. That means TV and TV money so big it makes the lottery blush.
Driven athletes aim for the Big Time. Sports fans follow their progress.
Sports fans with heart know the odds of good players making the Big Time are slim to none. Show the heart of a champion fan by treating each step of the journey as Big Time as it gets. The notion of true Big Time is where the athlete competes at any particular moment.
You understand this after seeing sports and coaching sports from kindergarten on up. It's all Big Time once the whistle blows. Be thankful for any part you can play.