SAC-HC's Fischer called to serve in Iraq's capital

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

April 04, 2004|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

SO MANY people like to play, watch and hang around sports because of all the ways they can reflect life. Sports can make you feel happy, or sad, or glad, or thrilled, or dismayed, or discouraged or determined.

But while games always, in the end, play out for fun, there is at least one indisputable difference between them and real life: War.

And so tomorrow morning, Jerry Fischer's wife, son and daughter, other family members and friends - who include many in the Soccer Association of Columbia-Howard County - will wave him goodbye and add him to their prayers for a minimum of six months.

For Fischer will be trading the chaos of being SAC-HC's recreation-level director, meaning nearly 500 youth teams have been under his managerial wing for the past two years, for the more serious chaos of Baghdad.

Fischer, a full-time Justice Department lawyer in Washington and volunteer soccer manager, is also a lawyer in the Marine Corps Reserves. And that has resulted in his being called on to serve his country and, such as it is these days, a free Iraq.

He will be working in the Coalition Provisional Authority, in the Ministry of Justice, in Iraq's capital city. The Authority is Iraq's American-dominated interim government, an institution intended eventually to fade away as a new Iraqi government emerges.

Locally, Fischer is not the first to fly off to Iraq, of course, and he won't be the last.

A self-described low-profile kind of guy, Fischer - that is, Colonel Fischer - downplays his role in Iraq and with SAC-HC.

"It's been an easy job," he said of his SAC-HC administrative work, "because the volunteers are absolutely terrific. It's like an extended family, really, and I'm going to miss everybody."

He is referring, of course, to the dozens of also unsung age-group coordinators, coaches, assistants and managers who perform the day-to-day running of teams and competitive divisions.

But we bet that Fischer will come to appreciate later that, suddenly, as of tomorrow, he also becomes a visible, personal symbol to kids on soccer teams he has coached for a decade of very real life. Ditto for the adults who keep the noise of rec-level soccer down to a dull roar.

Along the sidelines

GEEKS: One of the fascinations we've had in writing this column for more than three years is how computers are worming (oooof, a bad pun) their way into amateur sports locally.

Three years ago, they were mostly a toy, a gimmick. Today, for some groups, they're indispensable. And their use is constantly evolving.

If you sample all the amateur groups in this county, for young players and adults, you'll find an amazing array of Web sites. Some are quite good, a few ill-kept or even forgotten, most middlin', hoping for a talented volunteer programmer or Web site designer to step up.

Among the innovators are the 6,500-player SAC-HC, which handles registration, scheduling and a lot of communication via computer; the Savage Boys and Girls Club, which discovered it could save lots of money by e-mailing a newsletter instead of using the U.S. Postal Service; and the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.

If you haven't looked lately, SAC-HC and the rec department have put up brand-new Web sites that are worth a few minutes apiece, at least. The Elkridge Youth Organization's site also has been made more functional recently, and the Howard County Youth Program's site is undergoing at least its third redesign.

The best of them is the rec department's sports site, www.hcrpsports.com. Designer Janell Coffman has that site brimming with not only the former adult league schedules, standings and contacts, but also a database of amateur sports groups, other links, departmental budget information and other tie-ins with Howard County government. Check it out.

BASEBALL: Columbian Dan Scafone's Mid-Maryland Travel League, a new idea two years ago, has grown yet again for this spring and summer.

"We're at about 200 teams, or will be when high schools stop playing," said Scafone. He started with about 75.

Scafone's league had added a few more teams in southern Pennsylvania, has dabbled with West Virginia interests, and also has absorbed a fixture for some travel teams in the county, the Sunday-only Central Maryland League.

Ideas? Interesting people we should write about? Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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