D. E. Larsen, DVM
“Doc, I’m telling you, you guys need to get over to the high school and watch these girls play volleyball,” Bob said. “They are playing well, and they will go to state this year.”
“You’re probably right, Bob,” I said. “It’s a little difficult for us, but maybe I’ll get Sandy to get a babysitter, and we will get over and watch a game.”
“Their next game is Thursday,” Bob said. “The varsity game usually starts at six. They play the JV game in the activity gym, so things go a little quicker than when they were playing both games in the same gym.”
It was the fall of 1980, and I had been asked before to come to a volleyball game. I was a newly elected school board member, and I was starting to feel guilty about not getting to a game.
At dinner that evening, I brought up the subject to Sandy.
“We need to go to the volleyball game tomorrow night,” I said.
“What time is the game?” Sandy asked. “I’m not sure we want to haul the kids down there.”
“They try to get the varsity game started at six,” I said. “We could probably get Susie to watch the kids. I would think we could be home not too long after seven.”
“Okay, if we can Susie to babysit, I will go,” Sandy said. “I don’t like asking her to sit on a school night, but if we aren’t going to be late, that should be fine.”
The gym was pretty full when we got there. The teams were just taking the floor. And Sandy was impressed they just ushered us to the stands without having to pay for a ticket. That was an unexpected perk for being on the school board.
We had to work our way up to six rows in the bleachers to find a seat behind the Sweet Home bench. We got seated and waved to a few clients who noticed us coming in. We were sitting behind a couple of older men I didn’t know.
The game got started, and Sweet Home made a couple of quick points. Then one of the Sweet Home girls struck a vicious spike toward the far out-of-bounds line. The ball was called out by the referee.
One of the guys in front of us was instantly on his feet. Shouting at the referee and shaking his fist in the air. The game went on. But from that point forward, the man in front of us became more animated and more vocal at every call that was not in our favor. At one point, the man sitting with him even tried to calm him down a bit.
“That ref is as blind as a bat,” the unnamed man said to his friend. “If he can’t do better than that, he needs to be replaced.”
This game was important in that the winner would hold the number one spot in the league standings.
Sweet Home won the first game with ease. The score was fifteen to seven.
Sweet Home found itself trailing early in the second game, and it seemed like the harder they tried, the deeper their deficit became.
The guy in front of us agitated to the point of being red in the face. When he would stand and shout at the ref now, he would take a step down the bleachers, shaking his fist in the air and calling the ref names that probably shouldn’t be allowed at a high school game.
The antics of this guy did not go unnoticed by the referee. There were times that I think he wanted to call something on the stands but probably didn’t quite know how to handle the situation.
Near the end of the second game, Sweet Home was trailing fourteen to five. The coach just wanted to get the girls settled down and ready to play the third game. He stood up and motioned for the guy in front of us to return to his seat and settle down a little.
“This game is lost, but they will come back and win the third game,” the friend of agitated man said. “They have been in this situation before this season. They are a good bunch of girls, you will see.”
“It just makes me mad when they have to play against the ref, too,” the man in front of us said.
Sweet Home took immediate control of the third game, just like the friend in front of us had said. With Sweet Home in control of the game, the man in front of us continued to berate the referee on every call.
The guy almost lost all control when the referee called a net violation when one of our tall girls spiked the ball for what would have been game point. The referee even blew his whistle and pointed at the guy until he took his seat.
It was only a short time later that Sweet Home finished the game with a solid win. The stands erupted, and it was apparent that we were not going to make a quick exit.
Everyone was standing, and a few people had started to file out of the lower rows.
“I am glad you brought me to this game,” the man in front of us said to his friend. He had calmed himself and was acting normal. “This is the first time I have been to a volleyball game.”
I could have fallen out of my seat at that statement. Watching his antics during the game, one would have thought that he at least was a little more than a casual spectator.
As we were making our way out the door, Bruce West caught my eye and motioned me to stop.
“How did you like the game?” Bruce asked.
“It was a good game,” I said. “These girls look pretty good. The guy in front of us was a little load at times, but otherwise, we enjoyed the game.”
“Oh, we are used to him, I guess. He means well, but he is just being Blair,” Bruce said.
Blair was a fixture in Sweet Home. A good guy and he became a friend who would always shake your hand at a ball game or on the backside of Buck Mountain. He just immersed himself in whatever game he was watching.
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels.