- Yellowstone: 35 Years Later
- Cuba 2013, Part 3: A Return to Havana
- Cuba 2013 Part 2: Viñales
- Cuba 2013: May Day! (Primero de Mayo!)
- Thoroughly Modern Miller (Outdoor Theatre, Houston TX)
- Patagonia 2013: Autumn in April
- Patagonia 2013: Local flavors of Chile
- Patagonia 2013: Trekking the “W” at Torres del Paine
- Patagonia 2013: Argentina’s Mt. Fitz Roy (“El Chalten”)
- On the road again! Patagonia 2013
- “State Champion Grace Parker” and the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers
- Hiatus: I’ll be back.
- Paris 2012: A History Lesson
- Paris 2012: Endless Louvre
Category Archives: Sports and Events
For the second year in a row, Olivia Reasoner was part of a big “HITS” production at Miller Outdoor Theatre. This year it was “Thoroughly Modern Millie” — a real change of tempo from last year’s production of “Ragtime.” Again, the show (and Olivia) were top-notch.
Olivia’s photographer/godfather (me) struggled a little compared to last year. One problem: I couldn’t recognize her for the first half of the show! I’d feel bad about this, but I was sitting between her dad (Barrett) and her brother (William), and I figured out Olivia’s disguise/costume before they did! She’s the one in the navy dress, “bob”-cut wig, and big, round glasses. She was easier to spot once she jumped up on top of the furniture (above) and when she changed wardrobe, losing the glasses and donning that white-fringe skirt (below).
As always, the lead parts in the HITS show were high schoolers; Olivia’s much younger and thus paying her dues in the chorus. Still a star of the show!
I snuck back over to Miller Outdoor Theatre the next night — hoping to improve my photographic luck. But the place was so packed (including thousands of people out on the amphitheatre’s grassy hill) I didn’t get anywhere close. Thus the one picture (above) from way back at the back, in the cheaper-than-cheap-seats.
The Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston is celebrating its 90th Anniversary this year. It’s an always-free venue in Herman Park near the Houston Medical Center, with about 2,000 “real,” covered seats, and room for thousands more out on the grassy hill of the amphitheatre.
In Oklahoma high school basketball lingo, a trip to the Big House means a trip to the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City for the State Championships. Saturday night, the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers once again made their mark there — ending the evening as Class 4A State Champs.
The beautiful blonde you see in several of the pictures — #23 with a pinkish headband — is my niece, Grace Parker. I got to hear them announce her as “State Champion Grace Parker” at the end of the game during a very-quick trip to Oklahoma last weekend. Grace is a defensive terror — her prodigiously tenacious talent for harrassing, vexing and frustrating her foes was honed back in Fort Gibson, growing up as Caitlin and Tyler’s baby sister. Of course those two were on hand to share the night.
The enemy? The vicious vixen of Mount St. Mary’s. Maybe being Popeless had thrown them off their game. They looked like a great bunch of girls: their warmup shirts didn’t have their last names on them; instead they had words like “Courage”, “Heart”, and “Strength.” But the Lady Tigers showed little “Mercy” – erasing a halftime deficit and storming back to make it look easy down the stretch.
The darker-haired #12 in several of the pictures (holding the trophy in a few) is Grace’s best bud, Allie Glover. Allie has roundball sharpshooting in her blood (her mom, Liz, was an All-American at OSU; her dad, Derald, twice coached state championship teams (allegedly)). Grace has basketball in her blood, too, I guess: Tyler was captain of an NAIA National Championship team at OBU. That may have come from the Parker side of the family. Maybe.
I had to stay behind the rails, so my pictures of the game itself aren’t all that good or interesting. Happily there was ample opportunity to get some fun shorts during the celebration afterward. Cousins, grandparents, and everyone else showed up to cheer and get their picture taken with the evening’s celebrities.
Forgive me for focusing on Grace and Allie — but Grace is family to me, and Allie might as well be family to the Parkers. I hope everybody on the team has an uncle somewhere proudly bragging and posting pictures of them on the internet. They all surely deserve it. Congratulations, Lady Tigers!
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Hanging on my living room wall is a framed copy of a November 1957 Sports Illustrated, with a picture of Sooner All-American Clendon Thomas on the cover. Back then, the Sooners were defending back-to-back national champs, they were riding an unprecedented 47-game win streak spanning nearly five seasons, and they were about to face off against Notre Dame in Norman. The prior year, the Sooners had traveled to South Bend and trounced the Irish 40-0. The headline on that Sports Illustrated cover: “Why Oklahoma is Unbeatable.” The Sooners lost to the Irish 7-0 that week in Norman, ending a streak that had helped to put an entire state on the map.
Oklahoma faced Notre Dame in Norman again last weekend, and again fell victim to the much-touted Luck (and Skill) of the Irish.
My seat at the game was right next to a devoted Notre Dame fan and alum. Tom Short graduated from Notre Dame in 1954, and again (with a law degree) in 1956. After a few years as an Air Force pilot, he worked with NASA on the Apollo space program. He’s been married for 51 years. Tom’s a very young 79.
Tom was actually at that 1956 game in South Bend when the Sooners got their only victory ever in the series. Fifty-six years later, he’s still a big football fan. Saturday night, he was gracious and statesmanlike in the Irish victory and complimentary of the Sooner traditions he found himself surrounded by. He was practically a celebrity walking around the OU campus in his yellow “ND 50-Year Club” alumni hat. One much-younger Notre Dame alum eagerly sacrificed his spot in the bathroom line to let Tom go right to the front. The visiting Fighting Irish fans were all eager to shake his hand and buy him a beer. So were several Sooners – including me.
Ordinarily, sitting next to a diehard fan of the opposing school is the last thing you want to endure when your team is losing a hard-fought game (especially to #&^%$ Notre Dame, right?). But this time it was a real treat. And maybe a tiny consolation in the loss. We’ll get ‘em next time.
Just a few pocket camera shots here, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to gloat a little about my Sooners.
The first time I ever saw an OU-Texas football game was in 1983 – as a member of the OU band (the “Pride of Oklahoma”). During college, I saw a win, a loss and a legendary #1-vs-#2 last-second tie in 1984. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to Dallas in early October for the OU-Texas game since then, but “win, lose or draw” (literally), it’s always a great spectacle.
The key to the game’s tradition is the neutral site at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The crowd is split 50/50, with 45,000 or so Sooner faithful on the east end and 45,000 Longhorns fittingly in the west. Even better, the pre-game and post-game festivities outside the stadium are smack in the middle of the annual State Fair of Texas. No tailgate party in the country can compare with the State Fair’s midway, carnival games, corny-dog vendors and fried ice cream.
I’ve seen almost every game in the “Stoops” era, which has been happily lopsided in the Sooners’ favor. I live in Houston – land of the Longhorn – where the annual event in Dallas is backwardly and erroneously referred to as the “Texas-OU Game” – so each Sooner win offers opportunities to carefully balance smugness and graciousness with my many orange-laden Lone Star State friends.
This year was (another!) beatdown of the Longhorns by the Sooners. The 63-21 final score actually makes it sound closer than it really was (it was 36-2 at the half).
One new amusement this year was the location of our seats. On about the 40 yard line, on Row 1. Our feet were just a foot or so above the turf, and we were just a few feet from the Sooners bench. Of course we usually couldn’t actually see the GAME (except on the big screens), but we got a unique peek at the Sooner sidelines. One fascinating moment occurred when the defense came off the field after a big interception. The Sooner crowd was ecstatic, but the Sooner defensive coaches were furious – screaming at the players because the secondary had varied from their assignments. The fact that the result of the play nonetheless turned out to be a Longhorn-crushing interception did not dampen the scolding one iota.
Thanks to Shane Merz, who let me bum a spare ticket this year. That’s Shane in the hat with his college buddy Johnny George. The pretty young girl with the funnel cake is Peyton Brougher, daughter of Aaron Brougher (another friend and Sooner alum from the 1980s).
A late-summer trip to Lake Tenkiller (in eastern Oklahoma) yielded lots of fun, and at least one decent picture. Hopefully the picture explains the odd title above (Wow – Big Thriller). Those are my nieces: Caitlin on the left (falling off); Grace on the right (screaming). Thanks to the Simon clan at Pine Cove Marina for loaning us the boat!
In a small town like Vian, Oklahoma, no tradition is stronger. Nothing brings the community together – and nothing brings the community to life – like a high school football game.
I’ve never worn a pair of shoulder pads or a pair of cleats. Even so, Friday night football was a big focus of my high school experience long ago in Vian (just like Saturday football was a centerpiece of college life at OU). I got to see a Vian football game last Friday night. I was glad to see that very little had changed in the past 30 years.
I went to Friday’s game to watch #40 Rowdy Simon (Sr., FB/LB) and #5 Rylee Simon (Soph., LB/QB). Their dad, my cousin Joe Paul Simon, was a Vian football hero back in the 1980s (much like his dad had been in the 1960s). It’s no surprise that Rowdy and Rylee are following in those cleated footsteps.
As the pictures show, Senior fullback Rowdy had some big runs (one TD scored and a second TD called back). Sophomore Rylee is the backup quarterback. But both of them are also starting linebackers (Rylee in the middle; Rowdy outside): Imagine what a great experience it must be to stand out there shoulder-to-shoulder with your brother. Then try to imagine how excited their Dad gets.
The 2012 Vian Wolverines are (again) ranked in the top handful of teams in Oklahoma in 2A football. Friday night they made short work of Class 3A Spiro — scoring 55 points while holding Spiro scoreless until the last seconds of the game. Keep an eye on the Wolverines this season.
In high school in the 1980s, I took football pictures for the yearbook and newspaper — standing on the sidelines in my band uniform and trading the camera for a trumpet at halftime. But that was 30 years ago, so my football photography skills are now a little rusty. Friday night, I could barely get my camera to my eye before a young Wolverine would dash right past me on the way to the goal line. And I’d forgotten how to shoot with both eyes open, so I was nearly flattened more than once by players barreling across the sideline while I had my eye in the viewfinder (one diving Spiro tackler actually kicked me in the shin).
That mischievous-looking ballboy (below) in the black #1 jersey is River Simon — Rowdy and Rylee’s younger brother. Rest assured that River will be taking the field for Vian High in the years ahead.
One more thing: I researched it, and it turns out that Rowdy, Rylee, River and their little sister Rebel are not actually my “second cousins,” as I’d always thought. They’re my “first cousins once removed” because our connection is via my grandparents and they’re from a different generation. But in Sequoyah County, no one says “first cousin once removed,” so I’ll pretend they’re second cousins.
For the small group of my friends that makes the annual late-August pilgrimage to Wichita Falls, Texas for its Hotter’n Hell Hundred (“HHH”) bike ride, the weekend is all about tradition. Like we’ve done for almost all of the past nine years, we got rooms at the La Quinta up near the airport, ate Friday dinner at El Chico, had pre-race breakfast at the What-a-Burger across the street, got in the starting line at the same spot on Scott Street at around 6:40a.m., regrouped after the ride listening to the bands in the same corner of the same big tent, went for a cool post-ride swim back at the La Quinta, then headed out for an early Saturday night dinner at Olive Garden, with dessert at the Braum’s on Kemp Street. Every year. Just like that. Somehow every year’s bike ride is unique, but the agenda for the rest of the weekend is practically set in stone. Why mess with such obvious perfection?!
A few years back, we would train all summer for Wichita Falls’ Hotter’n Hell Hundred (100-mile road bike ride). This year, after finishing the much-tougher Leadville 100 on mountain bikes earlier in the month, we relied on leftover fitness: our HHH training consisted of about two rides each – just enough to remember the slightly different feel of a skinny-tired road bike and brace ourselves for West Texas heat. All the traditions were intact, though we had one new development: Shane’s wife Michele came along and rode the full 100-mile trek. She did a fine job of tolerating our idiosyncrasies and pretending she hadn’t heard our old HHH war stories a hundred times already.
Ned Barnett is a mainstay of the HHH traditions, but unfortunately he’s not in any of these pictures. He actually did a separate race (finishing #15 of about 150 racers in his class), so we never saw him on the course or at the finish. Happily, he did join us at El Chico and Olive Garden, where he brings his own body-is-temple bike racer food.