Deep Left Sandbox

By John Ring



       If you have noticed a decline in my productivity as the sports editor of this newspaper, you have obviously paid attention. Unfortunately, itÕs about to get even worse and my column and sports writing career are going to be put on hold.

       I will be getting deployed to Southwest Asia in a few weeks. The military doesnÕt refer to it as the ŅMiddle EastÓ anymore. ItÕs Southwest Asia. But in January, I will be leaving for Southwest Asia on a 120-day tour.

       ItÕs hard to complain about it. Not when Army and Marine soldiers are deployed for a 12 or 18 month time frame and then going back a year later This is just my second tour of duty... IÕm a lucky guy because of that. But itÕs difficult to explain how much time and training go into one of these deployments. The requirements are staggering.

       ThatÕs not a bad thing, either. There is no doubt in my mind that those of us being deployed are better prepared and better trained than the guys who were shipped off to Viet Nam. ThatÕs not a slam against them, who went into far worse circumstances and should be commended for their service. But itÕs absolutely true. When I see and talk to Vietnam veterans like Doug Mustain or K.G. Klinck, I always think about the sacrifices they made.

       But back to sports--- I havenÕt been able to cover the scope of local sports as much as I would like to have the last few months. There just hasnÕt been the time.

       I would love to interview freshman basketball player Madi Hanna at Knox College, who is providing some much needed scoring and rebounding. IÕd like to spend some quality time with her teammate, senior Andie Allison, as she caps off her basketball career. And I never go to congratulate Coach Wendy on her beloved Red Sox winning the World Series.

       Another player IÕd like to talk with is freshman Victor Davis of the Silver Streaks. The last time I spoke with him was three years ago when he was a 7th grader at Costa. Now I hear heÕs another John Peters.

       And how about the Sandburg Chargers? Now that the womens NJCAA championship tournament will be played in East Peoria (instead of Phoenix) can they make the 50 mile trip? I donÕt think so. They donÕt have the super star like they lost in LaToya Wright. But IÕd like to talk to Coach Mike Bailey and Heather Larson and Allison Epping about it.

       ItÕs always nice visiting with Mike Rux, who is among the most media savvy guys around. His sophomore Streaks are off to another fast start and he has his usual freshman players on the team as well. Does this guy hold the state record for consecutive seasons coaching at the sophomore level and developing players for the varsity?

       Jeff Houston is a quality guy who always made time for me. I wish I had more time to spend with him. He pours his heart and soul into the Streaks program. For those power brokers who talked about replacing him as the Streaks basketball coach, shame on you.

       I miss joking around with Jay Redfern of the Register-Mail at basketball games. We covered some pretty good (and some pretty bad) teams over the years. And while I donÕt read the R-M as much as I used to, I loved his editorial piece in last SundayÕs paper on the Galesburg City Council. He didnÕt mince words and thatÕs the way it should be. Good for you, Jay.

       If I only had the time. I wanted to do feature articles on Kelly Ricketts and Rachel Pendry before I left. They deserve it, after their contributions to Silver Streak girls basketball. They also deserve the talents of one Mr. Jim Wyman, who does Galesburg basketball on WGIL. I listened to him again on Saturday when the Streaks played in Chicago. And he was right. He joked with me early in the year he would be better as the season went on. ThereÕs no doubt about it. What a quality broadcaster he is. ItÕs like the Streaks are college D-1 listening to him.

       So what will I miss? Sports-wise, the Super Bowl, the basketball state tournaments and Opening Day. Non sports-wise—my daughterÕs birthday.

       What wonÕt I miss? The cold weather, shoveling snow, scraping windshields, the Iowa caucuses and the NFL Pro Bowl.

       It came down to what was more important these last few weeks. IÕm taking eight other firefighters with me to ŅSouthwest Asia.Ó to an Air Force base to provide fire protection with groups from three other units. Like I said, IÕm lucky. We donÕt have to go on patrols and route convoys and eat Meals Ready to Eat (MREÕs) and sleep on the floor of a broken down house in a village in the middle of nowhere. I admire those guys but they are a hell of a lot younger than me.

       ThatÕs the thing--- thereÕs always guys like that. They were there in the Ō60s (Vietnam), the 50s (Korea) and all throughout our history.

       Thanks for putting up with my lack of coverage. It will be back to normal next summer when Dusty Baker takes the Reds to the Promised Land. (Psst—IÕm joking.)