I find it rather hard to believe that Wednesday's WestPAC track meet is essentially the last local sporting event of the 2010-11 school year.
It seems so difficult to believe that we're near the finish line because the sun doesn't seem to have gotten out of the blocks.
I'm fairly sure that spring is here, as it's not quite pitch-black anymore when I walk to work. I even got a slight sunburn after playing golf on Sunday. But every time I seem to think summer's on its way, I get thrown off course.
There wasn't even an outdoor athletic event held in the four-county area until May 3, the Copper Country Invitational at Baraga. Mix the late start in with a mess of postponements and cancellations, some of which create even more postponements and cancellations (for example, Houghton had a non-conference doubleheader with Phelps, Wis. cancelled because Phelps had to find a date to make up all its postponed league games).
Granted, the downstate folks have had problems of their own (the Tigers have had three home games rained out in the last 10 days, including Wednesday's against Tampa Bay), but the playing field is neither level nor dry.
Look at the record book. Only one state record, the Division 3 boys' high jump by John Payment of Brimley in 1989, is held by a U.P. athlete or team (of a possible 51). A lot of that has to do with the sheer difference in population, but I can't help but think if we had more than two or three nice-day track meets per year, it would help.
As for the diamond sports, the expansion of high school softball and baseball within the U.P. is an encouraging development. I'm all for having more things to cover. But the Michigan High School Athletic Association holds its tournaments in mid-June. Heck, up here, that's before the mosquitoes are even out. Some places (Gladstone softball and Escanaba baseball come to mind) in the U.P. have earned success in the state ranks. But like your garden, baseball and softball on the school-sponsored prep level will never bloom in the U.P. until the MHSAA follows the lead of states like Wisconsin and Iowa and sponsors tournaments deeper into the summer.
Given the way local communities throughout the peninsula rally around their football and basketball teams, I'd like to believe that people would come out to watch the hometown team on the diamond on a sunny night in mid-June. The ones who come out when it's 45, windy and threatening to snow? They have to be the true diehards.
American Legion baseball is great, and I enjoy covering it. But wouldn't a Houghton-Hancock or Houghton-Calumet high-school game be great to watch? Now, players from all those schools are on the same team.
It's hard to write a column complaining about the weather when tornadoes are destroying people's homes and lives in several places throughout the country. Also, I signed the contract for messed-up weather when I moved back to the U.P. But if the MHSAA wants to be truly representative of the interests of the whole state, I think some changes need to be made in spring schedules.
Either that, or global warming is going to have to pick up fast.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.