Thoughts, takeaways, and a toast

Shots in the Darke

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Well, that’s another holiday season entered into the books, hopefully one that was memorable for everyone. Now begins the long stretch of winter days and nights with spring appearing to be far, far away and yet there is so much to look forward to and enjoy. Have you ever thought that it would be great to move New Year’s Day to thefirst of February instead of having three major holidays all within six weeks?

There are a lot of things to bring to the table in today’s award winner, so let’s get started!
What a week or two ago was widely anticipated as a great matchup between Cincinnati and
Cleveland with playoff implications has fallenflat with the Bengals eliminated and the Browns locked into the AFCfive-seed regardless of what happens in the NFL’sfinal regular season weekend. Time for everyone to get behind the Brownies as they make only their second playoff appearance since 2002; I like their chances as quarterback Joe Flacco has performed magnificently since being plucked from his couch at home only a month or so ago and the defensive unit is as good as any in the league. However, beware the Ravens, they are impressive!

Plenty of big games in the NFL this weekend as playoff berths and seedings are up for
grabs. The Niners and Ravens wrapped up the number one seeds in their respective
conferences along with the treasuredfirst-round bye and homefield advantage. Two contests to watch—the Colts and the Texans in what is really a playoff game with the winner advancing and the loser out and the Bills-Dolphins (can you believe the Ravens putting 56 points on the board against Miami Sunday?) with the Bills being either the number two seed with a win or completely eliminated with a loss.

Seems like the Cowboys always are the recipients of some dubious officiating calls.
“America’s Team” once more took advantage of a questionable penalty against the Lions in
claiming the two-seed, at least for now, in the NFC. And on the day Jimmy Johnson was
inducted into the “Ring of Honor” in Dallas no less. I might be off-base here, but a lot of
publicity is given to a franchise that hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1996–Jerry Jones has a
way of keeping the ‘Boys in the forefront doesn’t he?

Enough of pro ball, what’d you think of the weekend’s bowl games? Michigan and
Washington square off next Monday in Houston for the FBS championship after big wins over Alabama and Texas respectively in what were hard-fought, down-to-the-wire contests. Guess I’ll root for Washington—the School Up North did ease the pain of what was a disastrous weekend for the league with THE, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn State all losing to SEC teams. Today’s trivia question—what other Big Ten teams won bowl games over the past few weeks?

Something has to be done to save the integrity of bowl games, particularly with the 12-team playoffs beginning next year and in light of Georgia’s 63-3 thrashing of a previously undefeated Florida State squad missing 29 players due to the transfer portal, “opt-outs”, and injuries. It seemed that almost every team playing over the last week was hampered or decimated by players not present. One of the best commercials I saw the past few weeks was the one stating that “only 256 spots are open in the NFL draft while over 400,000 are available in the
tradesfield”—most players preparing for the draft who sat out their team’s games won’t be selected in April.
A few quick thoughts on area high school basketball as January begins and enough games
have been played to establish a few opinions on different teams—

In MVL boys basketball play Butler, Tipp, Stebbins, and Sidney seem to be the class of the
league (by the way, congratulations to Greenville’s squad as they recorded their first win of the season over Fairborn) while the same four schools have risen to the top of the girls standings.

WOAC girls action has Tri-Village, Arcanum, and Mississinawa leading the pack with a big
game Thursday as the Lady Patriots travel to the home of the Lady Trojans. On the boys side it once again appears that Preble Shawnee and Tri-Village will dominate although Franklin-Monroe and Bradford are forces to be reckoned with (even though F-M lost badly to Shawnee earlier the Jets are improving as new additions learn to play as a unit. Meanwhile the ‘Roaders are a veteran, dangerous team who are capable of winning every time they take the court).

Up north, Coldwater’s boys have gotten off to a quick start in the MAC with Versailles’s
young team a threat along with a few other schools while the St. Henry and Marion Local girls seem to be among the conference’s best.

Northwestern, Minnesota, and Maryland were the other Big Ten bowl winners in case you
forgot and helped salvage a little bit of conference pride. Washington’s addition to the league next year does mean that both finalists this year will add a little luster to the conference’s image. And Coach Jim Harbaugh, who knows where he’ll be next season?

Finally, this Irish (I have a wee bit of Irish blood coursing through my veins!) toast to the New Year—“May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm on your face, and the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palms of His hand.” And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been. Here’s to a great 2024 for each and every one!!