Friday, December 26, 2014

Some things to remember about 2014

OK, OK, 2015. We get the message.

It’s not like we can’t see you out there, tapping your foot, checking your watch. It’s your time, and you want to get on with it. Point made.

But give us a minute or two here. 2014 deserves that, don’t you think?

Some stuff happened around here this year, see, and it was wonderful stuff. A man got his vacation gloriously delayed. A basketball team chased perfection and caught it. Another basketball team chased history, caught some of it, and scared the bejeebers out of the rest of it.

And then there was this, which is as good a place to start as any:  A young man holding up a trophy, a six-lane smile on his face, as confetti twinkled down from the sky around him.

This was Ron Howard on that night in April when the Mad Ants clinched the NBA D-League championship, bringing yet another title to a city that has grown accustomed to them. That was the moment of the year, because, speaking of things gloriously delayed, no one had seen a payoff delayed for so long and endured it with such grace.

They called him Mr. Mad Ant, and that was fine with him, that was something he embraced as fully as he and his young family embraced this city. And so you wanted to see what happened this spring happen mainly for him, for seven years of mostly pointless basketball, for seven years of ceaseless striving and unquenchable optimism. 

So put that night in April at the top here, with Howard and team president Jeff Potter – who believed, too, and finally saw it happen -- embracing as the confetti twinkled.

And while we’re at it, let’s put the Komets and TinCaps in there, too, because they had their own triumphs.

Let’s remember how first-year coach Gary Graham and the Komets front office put a hockey team together, and then took it apart, and then put it back together again, eventually closing with a rush to make the ECHL playoffs for the first time. And let’s remember the TinCaps, who were dead in the water with three weeks left in the season, then won six of their last seven games to make the playoffs for a Midwest League-best sixth straight year.

Let’s remember the Saint Francis women’s basketball team, and the number 38. That’s how many wins, against no losses, the Cougars put together last winter, going unbeaten and winning the NAIA national title behind Skylar Shurn and Jenelle Wilson, the best backcourt in the NAIA.

Across town, meanwhile, Indiana Tech’s men and women track teams brought home NAIA titles, too. And IPFW’s men won a school-record 25 games and came within a few trembling minutes of reaching the NCAA tournament before Taylor Braun of North Dakota State took over the Summit League title game in the last two minutes and got the Bison through, 60-57.

Three months later, out at Leo, the Lions softball team got through, too, zanily enough. They wobbled into the tournament off four losses in their last five games, and their coach, Ben Shappell, made plans to go to Hawaii with his family the week of the state finals. But then a shy kid named Lindsey Bowers started shutting everyone out, a phenomenal freshman named Alexa Allen led a potent lineup of bats, and Shappell had to postpone his trip as the Lions won the Class 3A title, Bowers pitching three straight shutouts to finish the tournament run.

A few months after that, Concordia’s volleyball team joined the Lions on the top step, winning its own 3A title behind All-State hitter and mental attitude award winner Tionna Williams. Ditto Canterbury’s girls soccer team, which, like Leo and Concordia, won its first state title, too.

It closed out, neatly, a year of firsts and near-firsts, which is only as it should be. Because we see you out there, 2015. And now 2014 has given us our perfect reply.

First things first.



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