After a one-year stint as the 16th man on a 17-man eighth-grade boys' basketball team, I realized I was no good with a basketball pretty early on, so if I was playing as a kid on a Friday night in Gwinn, I was in the trombone section of the Gwinn High School Jazz Band.
I'm a band geek, born of band geeks and that's OK.
During my visit to Calumet Tuesday night, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that I'd luckily picked one of the games at which the Calumet High School Band was performing. Director Scott Veenstra had them sounding pretty solid, just like usual, and with their accompaniment, it was just that little bit easier for me to get into the right frame of mind to cover the game as well as I ought.
I'll take a round of "Final Countdown," (which just happened to be the same entrance music we played for the GHS boys' team) over something downloaded off iTunes and played from a box any day.
I appreciate the work of Calumet's band, as well as all of other pep bands and jazz bands that I encounter on my travels, not to mention the directors that keep everything together.
One of the unintended consequences of the season switch of girls' basketball to winter was to impact the atmosphere at both events. If you figure that each school probably has at or around 10 home games in each gender over a three-month period, and mix in all of the other extra-curricular commitments the average busy high school student has, it's probably a small miracle that Tuesday's game had cheerleaders, a pep band, a color guard, the talented Dan Ojala on the public address mic, and all of the bells and whistles that make a basketball game in the U.P. a true community event. For better or worse, choices have to be made.
My selections are in need of a little Christmas cheer again after a rough week in which I went 3-5-2. I suppose that puts me on the "naughty" list as far as the WCHA is concerned. With just three non-conference games this week, I doubt I'll have much of a shot at redemption, but every game counts, so here goes:
Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan
Last year around this time, I got a chance to cover Tech's game at the Berry Center. In a fact I try not to admit too loudly, I grew up watching the Wildcats and can confidently say Tech made them look as bad as I've ever seen them, in a 1-0 victory.
Once again, NMU appears to be lurching into Christmas break. The Wildcats were swept badly at Lake Superior State last weekend (5-1 and 6-3) and will have a losing record on Christmas Day for the fourth consecutive year.
Speaking of the naughty list, NMU's Ray Kaunisto is on it, but not Santa's, the CCHA's. Kaunisto is suspended for Friday's game because of a blindside hit to the head in the Sault Friday. No penalty was called, but apparently the CCHA's video elves caught him.
The Huskies have now beaten NMU three times in a row, and well, that's a tendency, folks.
The Prediction: Tech wins 3-1
Nebraska-Omaha vs. Minnesota State
This will be the last time UNO and MSU play only for bragging rights among college hockey programs named Mavericks. The next time they meet, it counts in the WCHA standings.
UNO has been up and down this season, its first under former North Dakota coach Dean Blais. The Red Mavericks are tied for seventh with NMU. Key to UNO's success has been its very good (6-1-1) home record. The Purple Mavericks are a little more balanced (four losses both home and away), but I'll play it safe and take the home-and-home split.
The Prediction: MSU wins 5-3 Friday, UNO wins 4-1 Saturday.
Last week: 3-5-2
For the season: 47-35-7 (56.7 percent)
But I've never understood the viewpoint that athletics and the arts (or other extra-curricular activities) are mutually exclusive pursuits. After all, Ewen-Trout Creek boys' basketball coach Brad Besonen is both the U.P. Class D Coach of the Year and the school's music teacher.
They are most effective when they go hand-in-hand. After all, if the plays and the players and the scoreboard are the only things that matter, why bother to have a fight song? If games were just about two teams going 5-on-5, why not play the games on some side courts in the SDC Multi-purpose Room? You could probably get a couple in per night, scheduling would be a lot easier and centrally located.
It's because high school sports are about community: For example, the uniform doesn't say "Houghton High School," it says "Houghton." Both on the court and off, these are ambassadors of our respective communities showing their talents for the enjoyment of all, and the more chances we get to benefit from that, the better.
So, let's be thankful for those who complete that experience of a night in the high school gym. It's not always something that shows up in the box score, but in the memory bank, that counts.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.