Geometry, Geography, And Prep Football

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I was paying attention this past weekend to the Florida high school playoffs with a little bit more interest than I usually do. My alma mater of Largo High in Largo (where else?) has made the “lightning round” of the football season for the first time in a few years, winning its district and going 7-2 in a nine-game regular season. (A 10th game was scrapped due to Hurricane Irma in September.) On top of that, the FHSAA revamped its playoff format beginning this season, rewarding the non-district winning teams that play a tougher schedule first and foremost, regardless of what records the teams put up. Each region is made up of four districts, so it’s possible five teams could come out of a single district in its current format. Plus, you get bonus standings points for playing teams above your classification on top of that.

Schools from Pinellas County, whether they are private or public, have never won a state title in football, and Largo has never had a state championship team in a strictly team against team sport. They drew the #3 seed against Barron Collier High from Naples, the #6 seed, and Largo’s Packers came out on top, 27-24.

The outcome is somewhat significant, and I thought explaining why would make a good topic here. What happens to these local high school teams is that they are somewhat victims of their geography, and perhaps to a greater extent, geometry. Assuming the level of talent in the state is relative, what winds up happening is when a Pinellas school goes and plays a team from a smaller area, it usually winds up on the short end of the scoreboard.

Say you have two boxes of pizza, and you’re given the option of having one slice in twelve of a larger pizza or one slice in four of a slightly smaller pizza. Assuming you’re hungry, you’d eat that slice that’s 25% of the smaller pizza, right? These teams in slightly smaller markets like Sarasota and Fort Myers usually wind up with more talent and more depth if starters get hurt, and they usually wind up winning these games 80-90% of the time. Good coaching and luck play into this as well, mind you, plus these “gems” of players that wind up playing on Sundays a few years down the road.

Whats happened in the new century is that these smaller cities are beginning to get a rise in their population, so these school’s respective talent is dropping off. More high schools are needed because there are more children in these cities needing their education (much more important than football), so with time and with population booms in parts of the state, the playing field is being leveled. Twenty years ago, a Barron Collier type team would have an easy time with Largo, even though they went 5-5 and Largo went 7-2 and had home-field advantage. Now, the randomness works evenly for both areas.

I think it’s a safe bet a Pinellas team finally wins a state football title by 2030. Heck, it might even happen this season with a few teams still alive heading to the second round in a few days.

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When It Hit The Fan

Yesterday, I was talking about how I would deliberately miss school in the first semester of the 1988-89 school year, when I was a senior at Largo High School. I can’t mention how lucky I was to have skipped school and NOT mention what happened when my luck ran out. And take it for me, when you think you’re getting away with something, don’t push your luck, as the universe always seems to find ways to balance things out beyond what you think you can fathom.

My parents weren’t really all too concerned about my school progress. They briefly separated when I was in middle school, then did so again for a few months in 1987 before coming back together. My mother left and got an apartment in nearby Indian Rocks Beach, living with her brother (and my uncle) at the time. In the spring of 1989, my Dad had a heart attack, forcing him into retirement from working as a butcher at a small store in Redington Beach, another nearby town. I’d work with him in the summer part-time.

They really didn’t pay attention to when report cards got released, and several days would go by from the time I’d get them to the time I’d ask for them, and I’d only give it to them when they requested. I somehow learned that bad news traveled fast, so you keep it to yourself until it’s asked for.

When the second semester began in early 1989, I was doing just well enough to pass classes. When my parents asked me for my latest report card and probably saw the eight absences I had without their knowledge, I could see what was coming, and it was trouble in River City. After the ensuing lecture, I was told that from now on, when I did homework or had to study, I had to do it in public view and not in my bedroom as I had been doing.

Whatever they said worked. I made the honor roll (making all A’s and B’s, with the allowance of making a C in one class) all three grading periods in that semester. If I missed a class that half of the year, it was for something that really happened, but it happened rarely if at all. I don’t think I did as well on the end of semester exams, but by that point, I had done so well that it didn’t mathematically matter. I was going to graduate.

The lecture gave me the “shot of adrenaline” I needed to finish my scholastic career strong. It would have been a total embarrassment had I failed enough classes in my final semester not to have graduated, but I always did just well enough to squeak by up to then.

Again, I was lucky when luck was all I had. If there’s a moral of the story, it’s not to depend on luck all of the time, because if that’s all you have, it can run out on you.

What Is The Reason For Your Truancy?

Over the weekend, Facebook reminded me of a scan I posted on there back in 2009 of my senior class, gathered in a patio outside of the school gym in the fall of 1988.

I’m not in the pic, because that was one of eight school days I chose to miss in the first half of the school year. That year, they had changed the rules over absences. In prior years, even if you took a single day away from school, you had to have a note from a parent explaining why you weren’t at school. In the 1988-89 school year, you just came back without explanations being necessary. You could elect to take 9 days off without penalty. The 10th such day off meant you failed all you classes for that semester.

And so, I wound up playing a lot of hooky that fall. I didn’t have any sisters or brothers, and my mother and father each went to work before I had to leave for school, and I always got back home when I went to school before they did. I wouldn’t make a lot of noise in the house, finding ways to entertain myself watching TV or listening to the radio quietly. I didn’t dare go out those days, lest anyone else catch me playing hooky and reporting that around, leading to a chain reaction of events where this gets back to my parents.

There was one Friday that I played hooky in the late fall, and then went to school to watch some sporting events at night. I may have had some PA announcing duties that day (back then, I did the PA for JV football, boys basketball, and girls soccer), but I don’t remember. I just got curious (and a little stir crazy, probably) to see if anyone would catch on. A few of my classmates knew I wasn’t at school that day, but no one in authority seemed to notice or care.

I was lucky. I should have gotten busted somewhere along the way, but it never happened. It seems I’ve always been smart enough to con people, but never smart enough not to. 

That Plagiarism Thing

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Melania Trump, wife to the Donald..

I was seeing my mother off on her way to Europe early yesterday morning, and saw my Tweet Deck abuzz over Melania Trump’s plagiarizing of Michelle Obama.

For the record, this is most certainly not the first time a politician (or, in Melania’s case, a speaker at a political convention) in recent memory has done this. Vice President Joe Biden got caught mimicking a speech in 1987, which ruined his Presidential aspirations for a couple of decades. Rand Paul has done it. Hell, President Obama got caught lifting part of Deval Patrick’s speech in 2008.

In the latter part of my senior year of high school at Largo High, I had to do a term paper in English class. (I chose college athletics as a theme, because even back then I saw how corrupt the NCAA could be.) My English teacher (who was no slouch, she wrote articles for the St. Petersburg Times on occasion) sat us down before we began our work and told us all about plagiarism. What it was, why it was bad, and how she was going to be on the lookout for it from all of us. If caught, the consequences would be severe, maybe even the difference in terms of whether or not we graduated on time or not.

It’s a big time fumble for the Trump camp, yes. But the Democrats can’t cry foul too hardly. As bad as it is, I merely think it’s a bump in a much bigger road of deciding who are new President will be.

Aircheck: WRBQ, 10/3/1986

Thought it was time for another aircheck, and this one goes back almost 30 years ago to the fall of 1986. Yours truly was a sophomore at Largo High in this point of time, and Q-105 (WRBQ) was the big top-40 station in the market at the time. A few years later in 1990 came the birth of a rival top-40 station at 93.3 FM, branded as the “Power Pig” which within a few years ended WRBQ’s over decade-long dominance of the market as the pop market powerhouse.

Mason Dixon is the afternoon drive-time DJ, and it must be a Friday afternoon, as “Friday Festivities” are underway. After moving on from Q-105, Dixon worked for a host of local stations in the Tampa Bay market until coming back to 104.7 in the 2000’s when it became an oldies station after going country music in 1993. In 2005, the station went back to it’s “Q-105” branding to go with the oldies format it’s had ever since.

And yes, they play many of the same hits now that they played back in the day. It’s a station somewhere in time.

4/20

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Yesterday was April 20th, a date that means something if you smoke some marijuana.

To be honest, I never have smoked weed to this day. Closest I ever got to doing it was briefly holding a lady friend’s marijuana cigarette my freshman year of 1985 at Largo High School. My heart skipped a few beats those moments, fearing I was being set up for a bust, that my lady friend would suddenly say “That’s not mine!” if busted.

I don’t think marijuana should be illegal. I see people on prescription medication act a lot more crazy and do a lot worse, not to mention those people on steroids that have frequented the sports and entertainment industries.

But yet, here we live in a society where mellow MJ is banned, but prescription drugs are not. Something’s wrong with that picture.

Baseball Mania

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At Tropicana Field watching the Rays play Seattle, May 27, 2015.

On the same day the 32nd Wrestlemania was held at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, the 2016 MLB season got underway with three games stretched throughout Sunday.

Turning on ESPN early awaiting the 1 o’clock start of the Cardinals-Pirates game, I saw a preview of the big wrestling card later that night. I don’t watch the “World Wide Leader” that much these days, so seeing a WWE card, even it’s biggest event of the year, promoted on the channel caught me by surprise. But it did remind me of watching Channel 13 (WTVT) in Tampa on Tuesday nights, and seeing sportscaster Andy Hardy promote the night’s card at the Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory. They held weekly matches in Tampa back then. Now, the top wrestling promotion only comes to town a few times a year, though its NXT farm system frequent holds performances at a small arena near Pinellas Park High School, not too far from me.

Also not far away was were the second MLB game of the day was played: the AL runner-ups from last year, the slugging Toronto Blue Jays, took on the local Rays at Tropicana Field. Usually, the Rays don’t draw well for a multitude of reasons I’ve discussed on this blog before. I also think that FOX Sports Sun carrying about 95% of their games is part of it too. No knock against their crew, which does excellent work, led by veteran play-by-play man Dewayne Staats and host Todd Kalas, whom I once had a chance to meet doing the P.A. at Largo High basketball games when he worked at Vision Cable in Clearwater. The games get great ratings for the local sports network, but it also tends to eliminate incentive for fans to go visit the ballpark.

On this Opening Day however, attendance is not an issue, as a sellout crowd came to the Trop to watch the road team from Toronto get the 5-3 win. Say what you want about the Tampa Bay market, but if your team is a consistent winner, and the game is important enough, fans will come out and see the big game. The price of parking, hot dogs, beer, and hamburgers the size of a small child are mere temporary financial setbacks. The game of baseball provides memories that last forever, and the game will likely be there to be observed and savored when the NFL eventually crashes and burns.