To draw big tournaments, Howard must see the light

PLAYING AROUND

November 11, 2001|By Lowell E. Sunderland

PARDON THIS diversion, for ordinarily on this page we leave high school matters to our sports department colleagues. But when you live in a Dark Age - as most in youth sports in Howard County do - sometimes a good yell just benefits one's mental health.

I hope, you read Thursday about how Don Disney, the county's coordinator of high school athletics, would love to see new Reservoir High, opening next fall in Fulton, be the site of the state soccer tournament finals.

Except it won't happen, because the state high school association that puts on the tournaments - mindful of gate revenue - knows value rests in some games being played at night.

But true to this county government's miserly, short-sighted approach to all amateur sports, Reservoir's fields won't have lights. Tired, old, outmoded Howard High's stadium with its dim bulbs on ancient utility poles will remain the county's only lighted field for football, soccer and lacrosse.

C-H-E-A-P.

D-U-M-B.

The county school system's policy of not allowing lights at high school stadiums is silly, outmoded, and simply amazing, given that it's pretty much the only one left in Central Maryland and also because it pinches pennies so hard you can almost hear Abe Lincoln sob. But it's sustained by the same public school administrators and policy-makers who earlier this year quietly shaved nickels that their staff had humbly sought for minimal field maintenance at schools relied on by thousands in county youth programs.

You can hear the anti-lights arguments: Too expensive, maintenance, we don't want to favor any one school over others, neighbors might object, crime, traffic, (shhhh) principals and teachers who don't want to stay late, blah, blah, and blah.

Here are some arguments in favor of lights:

Not only do state tournaments in any sport draw good, paying crowds, but also they add prestige to a school's athletic programs and credibility to a system as caring about excellence.

During regular seasons in three sports, for girls and boys teams, working parents can see children play without cutting work. And you'll never meet a student-athlete who doesn't savor playing at night.

Evening games can draw from other segments of the community in addition to the student body, most of which is bused home after school, anyway.

The root issue isn't taxpayer money, we're told reliably; it's philosophy. Booster clubs and other community-based groups are willing to foot much, if not all, of the bills for lights.

Whatever else can be said about high school sports here, soccer is excellent in a county that cherishes excellence, except when it comes to public spending. Having a lighted stadium with a real soccer field - Reservoir's will be 120 yards long and 75 yards wide, or international quality, to say it another way - would be a definite asset.

Add to that, Reservoir (or any other Howard County high school) will be central to most teams coming from not only equally soccer-crazy Montgomery County but everywhere else in Maryland.

This column's Department of Hmmm hasn't been heard from in months. But, you know, a couple new emanations just arrived:

There aren't any houses to speak of near Reservoir at the moment. Which means no one to complain about the glow. Hmmm. But just wait till houses are built, and then try putting in lights. Hmmm.

If ultra-conservative Carroll County can afford to light its stadiums when new schools are built and even plodding Baltimore County finds it wise to retrofit all of its high school stadiums with lights, what the heck is the hangup here? Hmmm?

On the sidelines

Football: The Columbia Community Church Warriors Junior Pee Wees play in the second round of Pop Warner regional football playoffs in Jackson, N.J., this afternoon after scoring their eighth shutout of the fall in last Sunday's playoff opener.

The Warriors' offense and defense combined for two long plays to beat Metro Baltimore, 13-0, in Dover, Del., after a scoreless first half last Sunday. Devrin Beasley opened the scoring with an interception, which he ran back 35 yards for a touchdown, and Urijah Johnson broke a 50-yard run to seal the win.

Soccer: Few things in sports at any level match the satisfaction of an unbeaten season, and Ellicott City coach Mark Anderson's Her-icanes accomplished just that this fall. His 11-player team of under-9 girls, in their first season of seven-a-side travel soccer, almost put up a real rarity - going unscored-upon.

The team was 19-0-1 for the fall and champion of its Central Maryland Short-sided League division, outscoring opponents 89-3. All three goals they surrendered came during the season-opening Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County Classic Tournament.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525, or address e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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