In April of 2010, author Tim Forbes embarked on a one-year “sports walkabout” that took him across the country to 100 sporting events involving 50 completely different sports. Why? Well, it’s complicated. His journey and ultimate discoveries about the true value of sports were published in the book “It’s Game Time Somewhere” (Bascom Hill Publishing, 2013).
You know you’ve been doing this for a while when you start coming back to the same venues for season-ending events—and it’s a different season.
In late May, in Event #15 on the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour, I visited Cypress College to take in the spectacle that was the CIF Southern Section Boys Volleyball Championships. Now, half a year and 57 events later, there I was again, this time to witness the distaff side do battle.
While one of the Boys Championships featured a school not too far away from the rustic home office of the IGTS Tour, the Girls Championships went one step further in terms of providing a rooting interest, considering that the piece de resistance of the day-long volleyball extravaganza was the Division 1AA Championship match-up between heavily favored Long Beach Polytechnic High School and Redondo Union High School.
A little context…
Long Beach Poly has spent a good bit of time this season at #1 in the MaxPreps Freeman Rankings. Not #1 in SoCal. Not #1 in the state of California. No, we’re talking #1 in the entire U.S. of A. So their appearance in this title game was not exactly breaking news. In fact, they had lost just one game in their combined play-off matches prior to the finals—and that by a score of 25 to 23. So they’re fairly good.
But! Redondo Union had one undeniable intangible going for it: They’re from my town! From my neighborhood, in fact!! The grandstand that I occupy in the banner photo of the IGTS website? Yup—the proud property of the Redondo Union Sea Hawks.
Naturally I was stoked. As for The Bird…well, she just rolled her eyes and suggested that I look into procuring a life. But she didn’t have to be asked twice to tag along. And off we went to Don Johnson (or was it Sonny Crockett?) Court, the centerpiece of the Cypress College Field House.
Here’s another thing that happens when you go to enough events to span two seasons—inflation. I’m almost positive that a ticket to the Boys Championship was $8, while on this particular evening I shelled out $9 for a ticket. But still…nine bucks for this kind of drama? Any day.
There’s something about girls high school athletics that mines the purity of sports. Everything’s more casual, and nobody seems to take themselves overly seriously. Hey, the Redondo Union coach, Tommy Chaffins, turned up in pink sneakers. Probably to match the pink Hawaiian shirts that the entire coaching staff wore.
When it came to preparing for the game though, it was all business. Chaffins ran his charges through an extensive series of pre-game drills and maneuvers, ostensibly to hone their skills and intensity for the game. And at least partly, I’m guessing, to keep them moving and not focused on the enormity of the task at hand.
While this was going on, the Jackrabbits of Long Beach Poly were engaged in their own routine. Lying face-down in a circle at the end of the gym, they were…talking. Who knows about what. Maybe about being 35-2. Maybe about having dispatched Redondo Union once already this season, at the Sea Hawks’ own invitational tournament, no less. “They’re bonding,” said The Bird. Oh.
It wasn’t long before the Jackrabbits were up and moving as well, though, and in general I was surprised at the extent of the warm-up for both teams. We’d arrived over an hour in advance, only to find each team well into their pre-game groove. And they continued to alternate use of the court right up until game time. It was basically the better part of a full practice done right before playing. I can’t imagine having ever done that in my basketball days; nobody would’ve had anything left for the game.
I was glad, though, that we had decided to come early and scope out a good seat, for as was the case in May, these Championships drew well. Once again, a sizable gym was filled more or less to capacity with boisterous fans. And while the boys might have had a slightly larger crowd, they certainly hadn’t attracted the full Fox Sports West broadcast crew—replete with three analysts—that the ladies had.
Just prior to the pre-game ceremonies, the Redondo Union fans started a recognizable call-and-response chant with a loud “We Are…” But the response part of that cheer—which I expected to be “Sea Hawks!”—wasn’t forthcoming. Instead, the Long Beach Poly fans on the opposite side of the gym bellowed “Long Beach.”
At first I thought that the Sea Hawk fans were a little naïve, having just served up to the Jackrabbit fans the opportunity to steal some Redondo thunder. After the third or fourth rendition though, it dawned on me: the Redondo fans were doing this on purpose. This was an invitation to their opposite number to show support for their own team.
It was a display of sportsmanship that you just don’t see that often these days. And when they had gone through about a dozen back-and-forths, both sides of the gym stood and applauded each other. I’m not afraid to admit it. I got a little misty.