Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Sports column

May 31, 2014

As summer approaches, so does football season

BLUEFIELD — Here is hoping for a long, hot summer with lots of Appalachian League baseball, a few vacation days and a deep sense of calm before it all breaks loose again in August.

I am, by no means, rushing us through the summer, but I have to admit, my yearning had me looking ahead recently to another sport.

I needed my fix, and I couldn’t find it.

The local newsstands—  which for me is usually found at Wal-Mart —  hadn’t been any help, unless you were looking for fantasy baseball, hunting and fishing or body building magazines with flexing muscles covered in gaudy tattoos.

Do humans really buy such publications, and do those folks really think they look appealing with all that body art?

Hey, if an allegedly intelligent ex-Microsoft CEO will spent $2 billion — yes, $2 billion — on the Los Angeles Clippers, long a doormat in not just the NBA, but among all sports leagues, anything is possible.

Where, oh where, were the college football magazines? I kept visiting Wal-Mart and local grocery stores and drug stores and anywhere else that might carry magazines and they were no where to be found.

Panic didn’t set in, but I was getting worried. After all, it was slowly approaching June, meaning there were just three months remaining from the kickoff of college football, and it was past time to start researching for the 2014 season.

Finally, a visit out of town and there were two in a Barnes & Noble  — being a manager there would be one of my dream jobs — but I had to choose one, at least in my mind I did. After much consideration and with no help from my non-sports fan girlfriend, who suggested I leave both of them behind, I chose one and brought it home.

It has gotten plenty of use.

Now all our readers know where my allegiance lies. I have tried to tone it down, but one of the magazines had picked Alabama to qualify for the four-team College Football Playoff, but not reach the final game.

The other publication picked Alabama to get to the championship game (and lose).

Oh well, neither one was perfect.

Guess which one I chose?

Believe it or not, football isn’t that far away, and I am not talking about the futbol that has been brought to the area by the Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors.

My yearning is for shoulder pads, helmets and pigskin, for fight songs, marching bands and wins for the Crimson Tide.

Time is ticking.

Local high schools will begin in just 60 days in Virginia — practice can start on July 31 — and 67 days in West Virginia — where preparations can start on Aug. 4.

The colleges will start about the same time, with West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Marshall, Virginia, Concord and Bluefield all preparing for the season ahead.

That means there is precious little time to enjoy a little rest and relaxation, not only for students, coaches and teachers, but also for media types like me.

A break is nice, but the Daily Telegraph sports department doesn’t get a very long one. We live in an area with not one — but two — minor league baseball teams and both deserve coverage from our small staff of three, which will dwindle to two for a while here soon with an upcoming surgery on the horizon.

Talk about a challenge. Would you believe that out of the possible 34 home dates on the respective schedules for the Blue Jays and Rays, 21 of those will find both teams home on the same night.

Do the math.

Oh well, no use complaining, but football will follow in August, and lots of it.

Football that counts — not all those scrimmages at Mitchell Stadium that outdraw an Appy League game — is not Aug. 29 when Bluefield and Graham — or the G-Men and Beavers, depending on your allegiance — highlight the opening of the high school season.

Nope. Football actually starts a day earlier, with Bluefield College — seeking its first win after going 0-22 in the last two years — hosting Pikeville on a Thursday night at Mitchell Stadium.

Two days later, the ‘big’ schools will kick it off.

West Virginia will open with Alabama, Virginia Tech hosts William & Mary, Marshall visits Miami (Ohio) and Virginia will entertain UCLA.

Only Concord has to wait, with the Mountain Lions hosting Glenville State on Sept. 6.

Over the next 12 weeks — sounds closer than 90 days — I am going to put together a few articles looking at the each of the teams that regional and local teams will be playing from Week 1 through Week 12.

Nothing too extensive, just a little bit about each team, returnees, who to look for and what to expect for the coming season.

No predictions — not yet, anyhow — just a look ahead.

I have noticed other area newspapers have reporters who do the same with individual teams, but just for their particular beat, such as West Virginia or Virginia Tech or Marshall.

We simply don’t have a big enough staff to have beats that we can focus on, much like I did when I worked in Bristol. I was responsible for three high school districts — with an emphasis on one — along with the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, and later for the University of Tennessee, a role I have missed often during all the SEC sports seasons.

My conscience won’t let me stick to one school, and neither will our readers, although it is tempting just to try and generate some feedback, which is about as rare as call-ins from most of our spring sports teams in the region.

(Note to those coaches; the phone don’t quit working after basketball season).

Don’t worry, no mention of Alabama, except for when the Tide plays West Virginia.

June has arrived. The college football season is less than three months away. Enjoy the summer, play some golf, watch some baseball, grill some burgers and take a vacation. Do whatever it is you like to do.

Rest assured that the football season will be here soon enough.

Recently, while watching a high school baseball game, I was asked by a West Virginia fan what I would do when — not if — West Virginia beat Alabama.

My answer, without hesitation, “Move.”

The next day.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at bwoodson@bdtonline.com or Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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