Friday, September 29, 2006

My Old Oscoda Owls Get Their Wings Clipped

We Take Flight!

The Blue And White!
Fight! Fight! Fight!

In 1975, I started attending Kindergarten in the Oscoda Schools, one of hundreds of military brats from the neighboring Wurtsmith Air Force Base to do so. And despite the fact that the majority of children from the base would move away every couple of years (like all my childhood friends from the base, for example)...I managed to attend the schools for the next 11 years, until my father received orders to go to another base. By that time, our family was the longest current resident of the base, at 15 years and a handful of months. (4, I think.)

I remember the school as a great place to be a Band Nerd. Which I was. The band people and the basketball people...they pretty much ruled the school.

Because our Football Team was the joke of District IX.

The Owls were never all that good. It was nearly impossible to build a real team when your star player, whom you've cultivated into a solid position player...suddenly has to move to Ramstein, Germany. Or South Korea. Or any of the other bases around the world. You can't hold on to talent. We had the same problem in the band. No matter how good we were, we never did well at district competitions because someone who was a clear leader was always suddenly gone by the time they were needed.

The rule of thumb for the Owl Football Team was simple: beat the hated Tawas Braves, win the Homecoming Game...and you should be pretty well set. Little else was expected of them, and little else was ever delivered. Every now and then a team that was worse off than we were, like Grayling or Hale, would come to town and get beat down by 30 points or more...but those games were pretty rare. there's this. On my way to pick up my children from school today, roughly twenty years after the last class I had at Oscoda High School, I listened to The Big Show with Dan & Keith on ESPN Radio (a particular favorite of mine). And they're talking about a high school team in Michigan that hasn't scored a single point in four games. The school board is concerned that they'll get hurt, because the team obviously wasn't ready to play this year. So they're done. They've cancelled the rest of the schedule, without so much as a warning to the players or their parents.

THAT part of it irks me. Communication being what I do for a living, it irritates the hell out of me when people are unable to properly pass along vital information. But, I'm not entirely sure I disagree with the decision to cancel the year.

The arguement can be made that it's a bad lesson for the students. "If it looks too difficult...just quit." But it runs deeper than that. This a town that's been on a serious decline since the AF Base closed about eleven years ago. When that happened...the population of the school went from near 1100 students to about 530. I've only back once since the closure, and what I saw was a ghost town compared to what I remember as a child.

They sold a joke bumper sticker in one of the shops. DON'T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS...I'M STAYING! It's about the least funny joke I've ever seen. And I work in radio, where unfunny breeds like diseases in Madonna's underwear drawer.

Many have said that the town has used to closing of Wurtsmith as a patsy to point to for everything that has ever gone wrong since. Basketball team sucks? The base closing did it. No one came to the Paul Bunyan Festival? The base closing did it. Drug abuse, militia rumors...tons of crap was hung on that hook.

One of the shooters at Columbine High School in Colorado grew up in Oscoda. I think it was Dylan Klebold, or whatever. The town is featured in Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine movie. It's painted as depressed community that "breeds psychos".

Hardly the town I remember growing up in.

Back to Football. There's a ton of great articles that I've been able to find since this afternoon, but none so solid
as the one from the town itself.

I remember The Oscoda Press as a fairly decent newspaper, part of the reason I became a news junkie. I think my mother worked there for a while when I was a lot younger.

I dug around in my lock box, and then my jewelry box, until I found my Class Of 1988 ring from Oscoda High. We ordered them as Sophomores at OHS, and when I moved on to the school I graduated from, I chose to keep the Oscoda ring instead of getting a new one.

I put it on. It still fits.

I think I'll take it off when the High School Football Season ends.

Let's go blue...


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