Five-day college football extravaganza now seems so irrelevant

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 2, 2005

[9/1/05]

This column space was supposed to be reserved this week for a look into a football fanatic’s dream weekend.

It was supposed to start tonight at Hinds Community College. On Friday, photographer Brian Loden and I were supposed to travel to Grenada for the Warren Central game. From there, it was off to Starkville for Saturday’s Mississippi State season opener against Murray State.

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After that game, we would load up the car and head south to Hattiesburg for the Southern Miss opener on Sunday, only to drive north again to watch Ole Miss and Memphis play on Labor Day.

Five games, in five cities, three different levels of competition. Fun? Yes. Crazy? A little. Lots of work? Maybe. At least in last week’s mindset.

Today, it’s just a forgotten trip replaced by destruction and horror.

Imagine, in Vicksburg we saw gusts of wind maybe reaching 70 mph. Now imagine 170 mph gusts. Imagine being able to see a casino barge plucked from its gulf-side perch, floated across a highway, landing in a parking lot.

Imagine being stuck, with no way out, with no shelter, no water, no food, no anything.

Imagine Hattiesburg and Petal, or what used to be Hattiesburg and Petal.

The destruction so immense, so devastating it’s incomprehensible.

I spent Wednesday morning calling coaches and athletic directors asking about Friday night’s schedule. The conversations all started the same way: “Coach, I almost feel guilty asking this, but…”

In reality, it was petty. While thousands of people may be dead in New Orleans, we want to know when a scheduled football will be played. It’s shameful just thinking about it.

Games are games. As competitive as the football playing schools are in this state, and this area, they are games. The final horn will signal a winner and a loser on the field.

In this state, though, we all lost something.

Some of our losses can be replaced; Some never will be.

Thinking about it as the words flow through this keyboard, each stroke of a letter brings with it a small tear running down my cheek. Last Saturday, everything seemed so normal. Press conferences were set, media credentials arrived in the mail and plans for the upcoming season were in full bloom.

In a blink of an eye, Katrina changed that.

All we can do now is pray. We should pray for those affected. We should pray for the rescue workers. We should pray that somehow all the people around this state can piece things together.

Through the tears and the sorrow, the broken lives of our neighbors, we pray.

Right now, it’s the only thing we can do.