Let's see, I have two ideas to write about here. Politics or football. Football or politics. Ooh, tough decision. Ha - who am I kidding?? *Crumples sheet of political notes.*
Who wouldn't rather talk about football in Storm Lake right now? Deflategate not withstanding, football is a lot more honest. Besides, I'm talking high school football.
Come on, Storm Lake going from 3-6 a year ago to 5-0 to date and top ten rated this season? Best start in almost 40 years? Pretty remarkable turnaround, and a good story.
The Tornado upperclassmen have taken their lumps in past seasons in their rugged district, and now they get to hand some out. They stuck together and kept working when it might have been easy to quit, and it's good to see them having success to show for their perseverance.
It really feels like a corner has been turned. People are talking football, digging their old green shirts out of a drawer, getting out to the games. I've seen times when Storm Lake played in front of a drowsy 20 people huddled under their blankets.
Storm Lake pride in general is on the upswing, and the new auditorium and other facilities at the school are certainly something to be proud of. I think people here can feel the change, and so can those who visit for sports and other events. The days people put us down for our diversity should be gone, and the time people admire us for our growth, awareness and ambition are well underway.
I think it's pretty cool to hear people chant," Storm Lake, Storm Lake" at a game. It's been a long time coming.
Sports aren't the most important thing in a community, but they are indicative of the pride and identity of a place. Games aren't just sports, they are opportunities for a community to gather and meet new people and cheer together for the kids, ours or someone else's - doesn't matter. There's value there.
Winning and losing isn't everything, either, to be sure. I've seen teams go utterly winless yet play their hardest, kids learning and enjoying their experience. And I've seen teams that win plenty, in ways that may not be a lot of fun, or you might say lacking in the best life lessons taught.
Judging from a piece of student video of an impromptu locker room dance routine by the Tornadoes, they seem to be making the most of every minute, and why not - a season goes by quickly, the high school years pass before you know it. But the memories will still be there many decades from now.
It's not scores that are remembered, but little things, a few minutes of locker room celebration, pizza gatherings, wearing jerseys to school on Friday, long bus rides, playing gags on each other, the friendships.
Having that spirit on a team - not necessarily winning all the time, but playing with confidence and maximum effort and a little good fun thrown in, tends to be infectious. The younger kids notice it, and once you've turned that corner, they are more likely to go out themselves when it's their turn.
That spirit makes it that much more fun not just to be a player, but to be in the marching band, or on the cheerleading squad, to be a ballboy or help run the scoreboard or take a turn helping out in the concession stand, to be in the student section that spends the game on its feet yelling, and in the adult cheap seats, where suddenly it isn't just a few soggy parents dutifully sitting in the stands.
Girls sports have had some hard times locally as well, but it seems like a corner is being turned there too, with underclassmen coming up excited about taking part. Once you have that spirit, the records will take care of themselves, the direction is right.
Storm Lake has several very talented athletes, boys and girls, some of whom have served as the core of four different sports programs for the past few years. They should be appreciated - imagine all of the time they have given to train and practice, keeping those programs going. There are many others who may not be stars, and get their names in the media reports all the time or get calls from college recruiters, but work just as hard in practice and play their roles with the same passion and effort. What they do allows their teammates to shine.
No one kid, or even a handful of standout kids, are a team. And that's one of those great lessons that you learn from taking part in high school sports, arts and activities. It's one thing to achieve personal success, but it's a lot bigger thing when you can help to lift up everyone around you.
There's a lot of football left to play, and football stories left to be written. There will be thrills, and setbacks. Teams will rise and fall, have great games and epic stumbles. The very unpredictability is what makes scholastic sports so much fun.
I have no crystal ball that will tell me what is ahead for our local teams as the next four weeks play out. The possibilities of fall are ripe, and it is good to savor than and not expect perfection.
I'll leave the predictions for those who fancy themselves as the experts. But I do know that we can be proud of our student athletes for the effort they are turning out and they way they are carrying themselves. No matter where you come from, how much or how little you know about sports, or how many years removed from high school you may be, it feels like there's a little bit of Tornadoes spirit in all of us.
When a team can do that, it has really done something. No trophy for that, but you know it when it happens.
Crank up that siren. Worry about politics later. Hey, is it Friday yet??