All-Star Week ended Friday night with a football game that was delayed almost an hour by a thunderstorm and a typical, plodding All-Star encounter that concluded at almost lights-out time in the dormitories for the athletes this week.
All-Star Week, with its multi sports, always has its glitches. Some players don’t choose to play for various reasons. Others leave for an assortment of issues. Last-minute replacements have to be found, sometimes the day before competition with coaches often using connections to pull players from jobs at fast-food restaurants. “Wanna play? Be in Conway today.”
Those who play usually form new relationships and have fun.
This year, there were major thunderstorm delays in soccer and football — soccer particularly challenging because the Bill Stephens Complex at UCA, while having a good field for competition, is by far the least fan-friendly and media friendly of any of the venues.
Through it all, the All-Star staffs and UCA officials adapted a multitude of challenges in effective and classy fashion. Crowds were good despite the elements.
And there were those favorite moments:
• Greenwood’s Lundon Williams was in the middle of tying her shoe in the girls basketball game when a rebound came her way. She picked the ball up and calmly swished a 3-pointer.
• Jeff Matthews of B98.5 served as the public address announcer for basketball and football and, on consecutive nights, meticulously and flawlessly announced the names of every dance team member, every cheerleader, every coach and every player on each team for both sports. It was the equivalent of two straight graduations.
• All-Star games have special rules such as a a football team behind by eight points or more has the option of receiving a kickoff and getting the ball back after it scores. The East team, which yielded a safety, gained about 50 yards in field position after receiving the ensuing kickoff.
• After the storm Friday night, a beautiful rainbow appeared, spanning the sky from end to end, above Estes Stadium. Despite the appearance of the rainbow, the delay clock was restarted. It seems a rainbow would trump lightning but not in the official weather rules, which state if there is a lightning strike within 6 miles, the 30-minute delay clock starts anew.
Watching Friday’s football game from the press box was also interesting and challenging.
Well ... it was sorta watching.
The storm, which swept through after player introductions, brought on steady condensation on the windows.
You remember those old-school flip cards in which a stationary object would appear to move? It was like that. If you moved your head from side to side and a player standing still would appear to move.
As the game progressed, watching the details of the game was like reading that last tiny line of the eye chart that denotes bionic vision. From time to time, UCA sports information director Steve East and members of his staff would used a squeegy to clear the windows. From about 2 minutes, the game would suddenly burst into amazing HD clarity.
For 2 or 3 minutes.
Then, numbers became blurred and the ball might as well be a hockey puck.
UCA’s Natalie Shock, who is almost impeccable in her ability to spot everything that is going on the field, had trouble spotting.
And the UCA press box is always cold and gets colder as the evening progresses. Veterans of the experience know to have fleece (even gloves) handy, even if the temperature outside is in the 90s. You can hang meat safely in most cubicles. I’ve never reached confirmation to the rumor that the UCA kinesiology department mandates a press box stay for high-altitude training. The road to Everest could easily start right there above the stripes.
The media was standing, crouching and standing on chairs and shivering trying to find a gap in the condensation so we could view the key action. Many went outside during halftime to thaw out.
I saw most of the game through a clearing gap in the window in front of me that resembled the state of Massachusetts. Later, another gap somewhat in the shape of Ohio added to the viewing. I think Shock and her helpers watched from a larger, wider and longer spot sorta like the Idaho and Oregon.
There were plenty of plays that were a blur that we could not fully see and it required a team effort of a dozen to record what really happened.
By the second half, many of us were looking at the clock and, as our teeth chattered, yearning for it to roll on.
Here’s a summary of what we actually witnessed most of the game:
Raindrops form interesting patterns on windows.
The Red team (the West) did some good things.
The Blue guys (the East) did fewer good things.
It was cold.
The Red guys and the Blue guys did a lot of so-so things, some of which, from our disadvantage point, were shaky reflections like in old home movies.
The guys in Blue and the guys in Red did a few things we failed to recognize or understanding.
It got colder.
Squeegy work is tedious and requires height.
With foggy windows, a fantasy is to find gaps in condensation that resembled Texas and Alaska. Most are kind of like the Hawaiian Islands.
The Red team won because it compiled 334 yards of offense to 190 and made fewer mistakes.
All-Star Week officially ended at 11 p.m.
Many of those who were in the press box had to wipe the fog from the humidity off their glasses in the parking lot.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)