This is hard.
It’s April, a time of rebirth. Flowers bloom. The cold, hard winter turns warm.
Baseball starts, which makes the oldest among us, of which I proudly proclaim myself, young at heart again.
In a college town like this, football returns with the spring game, as festive an event as you can imagine.
Former players return to town and merge in the mind’s eye with the players who represent the future, meaning the upcoming fall. Nothing like an April tailgate, a brew and a brat or a pepperoni roll and the sounds of “Country Roads” ringing out once again.
Football in this town is a religion, and to come and see old friends and talk about memories of football games past and dreams of future games, all of it eager to catch a look and see if the departure of Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin is really the end of the world.
Only this year, can you really think of the end of the world in terms of football with all that surrounds us this week?
What is a fumble or an interception when you think of it terms of a pressure cooker bomb on the finish line of the Boston Marathon, taking out the legs and lives of people who, just like you, were celebrating another right of spring less than a week earlier.
Then a couple of days later, down there in the heart of Big 12 country that has suddenly become our own playground, a fertilizer plant turns into a virtual nuclear weapon. West, Texas, is nearly destroyed under a mushroom cloud.
Fertilizer, which is supposed to make our flowers grow, which feeds the food that feeds us, becomes a weapon that ends lives in a town that sports writers and travelers have used as a popular rest stop on drives near Baylor or Texas.
What is this world coming to?
Why? That always is the question, and it usually is one with no answer … no real answer.
It’s a question I’ve been asking since the day I was born, for the very next day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Mine has been a wonderful life with joy coming from family and friends and sports and from a profession that has always given far more than I have taken from it.
But reality always has intruded, for that is the world in which we live. World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq … on and on.
Always it was horrible, our finest men and women fighting for freedom, sometimes coming back maimed, sometimes coming back dead … but it wasn’t happening at the World Trade Center in New York or on Boylston Street in Boston.
As I sit here writing this, thousands of law-enforcement agents are chasing a single villain, age 19, who set the bombs in Boston, running for his life when he failed to give others a chance to run for their own. His brother lies dead somewhere, died they say with a bomb attached to him so he could perform one final evil act.
You listen to friends and relatives of these two brothers and they seem unbelieving that they
could have performed such acts, could have housed such evil feelings within what they thought were relatively normal people.
One friend described him as a “fun kid,” “cheerful,” “never really mad at the world.” He noted that he was captain of the wrestling team, someone he looked up to, someone he could trust his life to. He even volunteered to help with Down syndrome.
All our lives we have believed that this couldn’t happen with an athlete, that the leadership from a coach, the spirit that grew out of the camaraderie of a team, the ethics and morals of playing by the rules would lead you into righteousness.
Oh, athletes make mistakes … big mistakes. We have read of horrible crimes, of rape, of murder from athletes we would never dream could act such a way, but these were crimes of passion, crimes of greed, but seldom crimes of terror and hatred.
I will try today, as you will, to enjoy this spring game, but I know I will not look at it as I have in the past, just as I no longer look at any sporting events as I looked at in the past, not after having been patted down and having my bag checked because in a country where you once trusted everyone you no longer can trust anyone.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.
This is hard.
- Bob Herzel
HERTZEL COLUMN: Huggins just wants WVU to compete
In the end, with Bob Huggins, they count victories and losses, and he has always been one to pile up the victories while keeping the losses to a minimum, at least until the last two seasons at West Virginia University.
And, in the end, when he tries to analyze why the losses have come rather than the victories, he comes to understand that he just doesn’t have the manpower to compete.
Carey, Bussie headline Big 12 awards
To the victors go the spoils, and West Virginia University’s newly crowned Big 12 women’s basketball regular-season co-champions certainly took down their share of the conference’s post-season awards, headed by coach Mike Carey and senior center Asya Bussie.
Oklahoma pulls away from WVU, 72-62
Reality hit West Virginia University in the gut Wednesday as No. 23 Oklahoma showed the Mountaineers almost every reason why they are not an NCAA Tournament team this year, pulling away in the second half to a 72-62 victory in Norman.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Lady Mountaineers will always remember their senior season
Taylor Palmer was following a much-traveled path when she packed up her gym shoes four years ago and left Mount Vernon, N.Y., for Morgantown to play basketball.
Lowes Moore and Kevin Jones had both done the same thing and become two of the greatest players West Virginia University had ever produced, each not only playing the game the way it should be played but living life the way it should be lived.
Bradley to give everyone a chance
A day after snubbing the local media by not talking to them on an evening set aside for interviews with assistant coaches, West Virginia University’s latest defensive savior Tom Bradley found 14 minutes to talk to IMG Sports, which possesses the rights to West Virginia sports.
WVU women clinch share of Big 12 title
West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team had just defeated Kansas, 67-60, to lay claim to a share of the Big 12 championship with Baylor on Tuesday night in the Coliseum, and someone had to sum up the feeling for the five seniors who had made the program grow to championship status.
That someone was Christal Caldwell.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Carey sends seniors out the right way
West Virginia women’s coach Mike Carey had just completed putting the finishing touches on cutting down the net, which came moments after he had almost dropped the Big 12 Conference regular-season championship, and now he was standing in front of the media.
Road to NCAA begins tonight for Mountaineers
While they would choose not to believe that it is necessary, it appears the only route West Virginia University has left to the NCAA Tournament – save a miracle run in the Big 12 Tournament to the tournament championship – is to run the table through its final two regular-season games.
New coaches bring different dynamic to WVU
Tom Bradley, the veteran former Penn State assistant coach, had a million reasons to leave a broadcasting job with the Pittsburgh Steelers and take on a job as senior associate head coach under Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia University.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Squires comes from swimming background
It was a weekend to remember, to be sure, and would have been even without the snow.
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