Aug. 21—It's great to be back at it.
The first fall sports competitions began Aug. 9, and just like our area teams, I too hit the ground running.
Since then, there's been a lot of local baseball, softball, and volleyball. Now, football is being added back to the mix. It's been great to see the return of our area sports teams, and I've been feeling right at home going to practices, games, and matches.
What's been really great to see is just how much the surrounding communities have missed these competitions — I think some fans have missed it even more than the players themselves.
For instance, I was at several McAlester softball games last week. Not only was the energy in the dugout top notch, but the fans did a fantastic job of helping to root on their hometown team.
Fast forward to Thursday night volleyball at Bob Brumley Gymnasium, and a very loud and boisterous student section stood and cheered for all three sets — with the young women on the court feeding off of that energy.
And then there was football last night. Sure, it was only a scrimmage. But there was a palpable energy in the air, with fans eagerly watching each and every down, and relishing in the fact that the Friday night lights had finally returned.
After the last year and a half that has seen so much turmoil and some, quite frankly, pretty dark days, it's been good for us all to reconnect like this again through athletics.
Coach Forrest Mazey said something the other day that encapsulated that feeling and the deep connections that run through a community through sports when discussing what the Buffs did last year — and what they hope to best this season.
"I think what our team did last year was great for the community in the time that it needed to be," Mazey said. "You're feeling down, and COVID's getting the best of us. And we've got something moving forward in a positive light. I think that was a great deal for the community and the school."
And I think that's true for every school in every sport in our area. I myself saw so many amazing things in the last school year — from dramatic finishes that created hometown heroes to the efforts of our local student-athletes outside of their sports working to improve their community.
People smiled, they laughed, and they cried together. Even if it was for just a few hours, people came together as one and bonded over something so seemingly simple as a game.
And we get to do it all again this year. We're already off to such a great start, and I can't wait to see where this season takes us.
See you all out at the game.
Contact Derek Hatridge at email@example.com.