By Cody Leist
The day after the Super Bowl: Should this be pushed as a national holiday or a day of mourning?
It’s the day when viewers of the NFL’s championship game need time to rest, recover and realize in depressing fashion that meaningful football won’t be around until about Labor Day weekend. But couple it with the harsh weather this country has sustained this winter and some might need a little pick-me-up through this period.
Help is on its way. Well, at some point in this, the shortest month of the year.
Sunday was Groundhog Day and it was also an important day on the local sports calendar as we now know the path each Ohio high school girls basketball program needs to take in order to play in the state tournament. Next Sunday, it will be the boys turn to select their journeys and this time next week, tournament basketball will have started.
This year will be one of those rare years where teams may get eliminated from the tournament but their seasons continue because of conference makeup games. There is an unusual feeling that comes with knowing that you are suiting up for your last basketball game of the season.
There can either be the feeling of nothing to lose and overwhelming feelings of pride in the work that has been accomplished or there can be the sense of running through the motions just to move on to the next season. Oddly enough, football on the high school level can be the only comparison to “playing out the string” as some might call it, knowing a chance to play for a state championship is out of reach but games are still on the schedule.
I always look forward to this time of the year because no matter how many bumps in the road a team may encounter in a season, the tournament is a new beginning and they can either ride the coat tails of a star player they’ve been missing all year or maybe Lady Luck deals them the right cards on certain nights.
What the Southeast District offers for many compared to other regions are great venues to watch this drama unfold. This year, girls teams will be playing district games at Chillicothe Southeastern and Jackson High Schools as well as the Downtown Gymnasium at Waverly.
Boys teams in this region have the luxury of playing district games in the Convocation Center on the campus of Ohio University, a place that I was lucky enough to step foot on eight times in my high school playing career. The Convo just has that comfort of an intimate setting yet the sense of playing on the big stage.
If you have yet to check out any of these venues or just haven’t watched a high school game this year, why not make this month the time to break either or both trends? You’ll probably see me there writing away and I’ll be glad to respond if you come up with a question or a prediction.
One way or another, this will be another excitement-filled tournament with teams making deep runs. This sports department will be looking forward to covering it until the final seconds tick off the clock.
Before I jump off the high school talk, swimming has not received the coverage that it deserves in this season, I will be the first to admit that fault. With the help of area coaches, I hope to put in more news from the pool as area swimmers look to reach the state meet.
If high school sports isn’t your cup of tea, you can have your pick of college basketball, auto racing or Winter Olympics. The sports junkie in me will probably be glued to any of these, if not all of them at the same time, during my free time. Who knows, maybe you will be drawn in by the next Cinderella hoops team, cheer for the newest driver to hoist the Harley J. Earl Trophy or you may want to take a broom out to your driveway to train for curling in the 2018 Olympics.
So cheer up sports fans, if you’re blue about football being over, you have been presented with a list of activities that are well worth your time. If none of them jump start your energy level, just remember that pitchers and catchers start reporting next Thursday to Spring Training.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.