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Wow, loads to address this morning, but we have to start here.
This paper has some wonderful traditions, especially in sports. Whatever hand I had in a slew of them is a great professional honor.
But know this: Of all of them, few are as universally anticipated like Stephen Hargis' annual prep tour that signifies the start of high school football season in this neck of the woods.
Here's Monday's rendition — his 24th consecutive year running around the area in as many schools, miles, drive-thrus and sweat-soaked stops possible — and enjoy.
How special is Hargis' personal kickoff? I know for a fact, through the years coaches have altered their practice schedule to make sure they are on Hargis' rotation.
It also leads me to this for today's conversation:
High school football, better or worse than a quarter-century ago?
And no this is not a "back in my day conversation" as much as it is big picture.
Does it mean as much to the community as it once did? And yes, a lot of that answer depends on location and whether a team is winning or struggling.
The talent is more impressive in terms of size, speed and nutrition, but is the game the magical force it once was?
How many communities locally do kids stand along the fence dreaming of one day playing on that field on a Friday night many years to come?
I love high school football. Always have. And while I know every coach worth his spit cup is doing everything possible to make his roster as deep and talented as it can be, the core of every Friday night was built in the youth leagues a decade before those lights were lit.
That's romantic to me. And all-inclusive.
One of my favorite scenes through the years of covering two decades of Friday nights around here was the sheer volume of school involvement when Hal Lamb had Calhoun rolling.
There were easily 100 kids in pads. There were easily that many — if not more — in bad uniforms. There were enough cheerleaders of all ages to stretch from 20 to 20 in front of the home stands.
At one point that was a school with maybe 700 kids and close to half of them were wearing a uniform on Friday nights.
That's cool. And connecting. And celebration-worthy.
It's something that Hargis kicks off every year.
And it's something our towns and communities from Signal to SPitt, from East Ridge to East Cowetta, from Maine to Manhattan Beach never lose.
Because it really feels like one of those things that, as Keyser Soze put it, "And like that — poof — it's gone" and I don't know if you can get it back.
Deal or no deal
We have less than a week in the MLB trading deadline.
The Braves added two dudes you have not heard of unless you are a) a serious seamhead or b) in enough fantasy leagues that your dog is named Roto.
They — Pierce Johnson formerly of Colorado and Taylor "Chick" Hearn formerly of Texas — will add to a bullpen that has statistically been very good but visually been very stressful.
Hey, the more the merrier back there right?
Which leads us to the question of who's in and who's out at the trading deadline.
We all know the biggest story line of the next week is whether the Angels are ready to pull the trigger and trade Shohei Ohtani. We have discussed that. To confuse matters in the Angels front office even more, the team has played better of late and is within striking distance of the postseason chase.
And that's with Mike Trout's return looming in the next several weeks.
Side question: If you were an Angels season-ticket holder, and there's assuredly no doubt that part of the ad pitch for those pricey season-ticket packages was the chance to see Shohei do things no one else has ever done, would you have legal recourse if the Angels dealt Ohtani? Could you claim false advertising in some ways for the remaining home games on the schedule? Discuss.)
The same dilemma waits in Chicago, too, where the Cubs are close to contending, but also could use the young talent a Cody Bellinger could bring.
The two to watch are the overwhelmingly disappointing franchise in San Diego — you stay classy — and the Metropolitan of NYC.
The Padres have cratered and reports from the locker room is a bunch of malcontents with a lineup way too good — and pricey — to be five games under .500 and 10 games back of anyone.
San Diego has Juan Soto, Josh Hader and Blake Snell as attractive options for contenders hunting a bat, a reliever or a back-end starting pitcher.
The Mets have a couple of future Hall of Fame starters who have become quite familiar with being the missing piece to a championship run in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
Who wants to make a deal?
Walking the walk
So we have two kind of meaty sections above. Happy reading.
Let's make this one a little quicker.
I am a fan of entertaining banter to and fro in the sports world. It makes things more entertaining, and other than college football fanaticism, entertainment should be a much larger part of sports.
It's even better when the trash talkers are guys like Deion Sanders or Larry Bird who deliver all-time memories after delivering all-time one-liners before hand.
Deion routinely coached other receivers on better ways for them to get open before interceptions. Bird famously walked into the three-point contest, asked who was finishing second, and went out and won the contest on a walk-off moneyball from the corner as he raised his index finger before the ball found the net.
Welp, Ella de la Cruz, the Reds young rising star had a moment last night.
Leading off the game against the Brewers, de la Cruz launched a high-arcing fly to center that the Brewers outfielder caught with his glove extended over the fence, robbing de la Cruz of a homer.
In his next at-bat, the Brewers' jumbotron operator got clever and under "player trivia" wrote: "Almost hit a homer in the first inning ... but didn't."
In that AB, de la Cruz launched a 456-foot homer ro right.
This and that
— Interesting story here detailing how Mayor Weston Wamp's failed attempts to can County Attorney Rheubin Taylor could cost us $150K. Yikes.
— This story gets even crazier as now Carlee Russell has admitted to authorities that she made up her kidnapping abduction earlier this month.
— Lots of questions about The 1975 canceling its concerts in Taiwan and other locales because of those cultures' anti-gay views and laws. First, what's a The 1975? Second, it's not like those countries changed their bigoted laws in the last 48 hours. Shouldn't that have been something discussed when the tour was being scheduled?
— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on Auburn's aims for improvement with a bunch of new faces, including head coach Hugh Freeze.
True or false, it's Tuesday.
True or false, season ticket holders could make a case for a club dealing an attraction like Shohei.
True or false, you knew who The 1975 was.
True or false, Auburn wins at least six games this year.
True or false, the Braves are done dealing.
True or false, you will attend a high school football game this season.
You know the drill, answer some T or F, ask some T or F.
As for today, July 25, let's review.
Walter Payton would have been 79 today.
Rushmore of Chicago professional sports stars, and I think we all know who is far left.