Summer sports sabbatical hard to handle

Saturday, May 12, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:58 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The stacked rows of lights of Memorial Stadium will flicker on 18 weeks from today.

That’s longer than this year’s season of “Lost.”

And if you’re a sports fan stuck in Columbia this summer, that’s exactly how you will feel for the next four-plus months.

If you’re a mid-Missourian, the harsh realization of summer hits with a deafening silence. You’ve gone from year-round sports availability at the three colleges in Columbia to nothing.

Well, almost nothing.

The Missouri baseball team plays the second game of of its final home series of the regular season at 2 p.m. today at Taylor Stadium. But after Sunday’s 1 p.m. home finale, an NCAA track regional in Columbia at the end of May is all you have to look forward to.

It was a fun ride while it lasted — it always is. When you add it all up, the Tigers almost had quite a season. The football team almost won a bowl game, the wrestling team almost won a championship and the softball team almost won a conference title.

But besides the baseball team’s push to overtake Texas for the Big 12 title, the ride is over. Now it’s time for you to stock up on Tang, bottled water and Spam and lock yourself indoors while fortunate cities hundreds of miles away have live sports to enjoy.

You know, those huge cities with the means and population to sustain minor league baseball teams. I’m talking Beloit, Wis., (population 36,000); Kannapolis, N.C., (37,000) and Midland, Mich., (42,000). Each of those cities has a single-A baseball team.

But not Columbia (92,000).

With no Summer Olympics or World Cup this summer, you’ll be stuck watching televised baseball — or worse yet, auto racing.

Or you can drain a tank of your own gasoline and head either direction down Interstate 70 for some live baseball.

For those without the means or desire to leave this hub of sports deficiency in the middle of Missouri, you’ll just have to take what you can get.

Little League Baseball and Softball. The Show-Me State Games in July. If those can’t raise your heart rate, you’re probably dead. I mean who doesn’t love watching race walking or muzzle-loaded skeet shooting?

Speaking of dead, two summers ago sports fans in Columbia had a third option: the Mid-Missouri Mavericks, an independent baseball team.

The team played on the home field of Mizzou’s baseball team, but don’t get the impression that they belonged there. Most who were bored enough to attend those Mavericks games came away confident that the Tigers would beat this “semi-professional” group of ballplayers if the two ever met.

We may never know how good they could have become because the team is on an indefinite break.

They suspended play beginning last summer to focus on finding a new stadium. Instead of giving fans the chance to see baseball that year, they literally gave money away — $10,000 to the Columbia Area United Way.

Somehow a charitable donation is supposed to fill the sports void?

So as you prepare for a 126-day drought before the football team kicks off at home on Sept. 15, what can you do?

Get outside!

You and your child’s well-being may depend on it.

Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” explains that children who get more light from a computer screen than they do from the sun are more likely to develop obesity, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Since you can’t watch other people be active this summer, why not do it yourself?

You couldn’t be in a better state for it.

With 11 state historic sites or state parks in this region of Missouri alone and dozens of local parks in Columbia, you’ve run out of excuses.

And besides, if you’re active now you won’t feel so guilty about downing that extra bratwurst once football season rolls around — after an agonizingly beautiful summer.

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Tom Karel May 12, 2007 | 7:49 a.m.

You are so right about the coming inactivity this summer for Mizzou and local teams. But that means that there is more time to spend outdoors and enjoy the many forests and trails and world class wild rivers in our state. But don't forget the bug spray.
I'll spend my summer putting up a new deer stand and doing a little scouting. That, and the preseason football magazines will keep me busy this summer, and before we know it, it will be time for football.

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