31 AUG 06: HERE FOR THE PARTY?
Somebody up there may have a curious sense of humor. For the third time in four days, the Northern Little League team had to wait out a rain delay - and this time, they didn't even have a game.
Call me a fearful wimp if you wish, but I canceled my plans to attend Wednesday night's Little League welcome-home celebration. I live walking distance from the Civic Center, but all sorts of lightning erupted between 5:00 and 6:00 - and after enduring two cut tires in the last 11 days, I figured I could get zapped for a trifecta.
A fierce thunderstorm hindered more than me, in terms of watching the welcome-home party. WRBL was unable to show the first 15 minutes or so of the program -- and during that time, Phil Scoggins and Teresa Whitaker might as well have been competing on "So You Think You Can Dance."
Even without my presence, a nearly full house was on hand at the Civic Center to welcome home the Northern All-Stars. Mayor Bob Poydasheff estimated the attendance at 8,000 - or was that his projected vote count in the mayoral election?
Mayor Bob Poydasheff called Wednesday "an emotional day for Columbus, Georgia," and kept praising the Little League world champions for showing "great character." He said the word so often, it was like he was trying to dissuade Jim Wetherington from rushing the stage.
(Earlier in the day, Mayor Poydasheff dared to tell GPB Radio because of the Little League win, "People who hear Columbus no longer will think of Columbus, Ohio. They'll think of Columbus, Georgia." We hope all those Big Ten football fans enjoy their stays in town this fall.)
Columbus Councilor Gary Allen read a city proclamation honoring the Northern All-Stars. He even gave second baseman Josh Lester a new nickname: "The Hoover." In a Bible Belt city, it's still not right to call someone a Dirt Devil.
Gary Allen also praised the world champions' sportsmanship, and said it "begins with the parents at home." This reveals a hidden advantage Northern players have, over other parts of Columbus - stay-at-home moms pitching batting practice after school.
Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox told the Little League champions enough tears were shed for them across Georgia "to run a tidal wave through the Civic Center." OK, but did she have to bring all the rain to illustrate that?!
(This may have been Cathy Cox's first public appearance since losing the Democratic Primary for Governor - so you wonder how many tears she's shed in the last month for herself.)
Congressman Sanford Bishop represented the U.S. House at the welcome-home celebration, even though I think the Northern players live in Lynn Westmoreland's district. Maybe this will satisfy the critics, who say the team doesn't really represent "One Columbus...."
Rep. Sanford Bishop declared Wednesday not only a great day for Columbus, but "a great day for the United States of America!" This seemed like a bit of a stretch - but then I realized the Civic Center crowd chanted "U.S.A." several times, but never once chanted Northern.
The grandest poobah at the Civic Center Wednesday was former President Jimmy Carter, who revealed to the crowd he's still pitching for a softball team at age 81. I'll assume Kyle Carter's pitches are a little bit faster....
Jimmy Carter admitted his wife cried, when she saw the Northern team's act of compassion toward Japanese players after the final game. Why, if only the winner of the Miss Georgia pageant let the first runner-up walk the runway with her....
The welcome-home ceremony was about 50 minutes old before the politicians finished their speeches, and the Northern All-Stars had their turn -- and the players never said a word. I thought back to the last time I covered this sort of ceremony, when the Kansas City Royals won the American League pennant in 1980. To be honest, the Northern players might have given more meaningful speeches.
Northern Assistant Coach Richard Carter told the crowd he sometimes acted like "Sergeant Carter" with the players, once making them run up steps at 11:00 p.m. Now this is scandalous! Attorney Richard Hagler would have had the players at home with their parents by 9:00.
Northern Manager Randy Morris said the players did everything the coaching staff asked - "for the most part." I hope he doesn't keep bringing up Kyle Carter running through that stop sign at third base....
When the one-hour ceremony was over, long lines of people remained at the Civic Center. They wanted Northern players to sign autographs of baseballs, special programs - but of course, it's too early for Kyle Carter to sign copies of his debut CD.
During the signing session, Coach Richard Carter marveled at all the people who lined Veterans Parkway in the rain to salute the Little League championship motorcade. And perhaps for the first time in years, none of those people on Veterans Parkway were looking for money to buy dinner.
The Northern All-Stars will be honored in Columbus in many ways. For one thing, "Trees Columbus" will plant trees in honor of each player and coach. That's a fairly safe thing to do, considering Little League players use aluminum bats.
The world champions also received gift bags, with all sorts of proclamations and commemorations from various government officials. The players will have to wait about six years before they can exchange those bags for what they probably really want - an ESPY Awards gift bag filled with text messaging devices and vacations.
The Ledger-Enquirer finally celebrated the Northern All-Stars in full Wednesday, with a big editorial and an eight-page commemorative section. Did you notice how smart the players were, to protect their reputations? Not one of them would admit their favorite baseball player is Barry Bonds.
The "Sound Off" section of the Ledger-Enquirer also had some words of praise for the Northern All-Stars. But one person wrote the Muscogee County Schools should learn a lesson from this, and move the start of school to after Labor Day. Now hold on - if this happened, the local Little League regular season would end before the school year does.
By the way, the rainstorm which kept me away from the welcome-home party washed out Wednesday night's Columbus Catfish game. So tonight's doubleheader will mark the end of the regular season - and the team has only one chance to salute the Northern All-Stars, with "Thirsty Thursday" cut-rate beers.
E-MAIL UPDATE: Here's a quick follow-up to one of the messages we posted Wednesday:
The "ack's" are from the Movie with Jack Nickolson "Mars attacks"
This comment is from a current re-elected offical
"It's a game....
It's only a game....
I know how to manipulate people
I'm good at it
and after I win the election i will not have to talk to any one" ....
So Jack Nicholson simply was imitating himself in that movie?!
Speaking of games - which official might have made this statement about manipulation and not talking to anyone? Well, Sheriff Ralph Johnson has the power of arresting people....
BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas drops to $2.58 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... "Classical Guitar Alive" at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight on Troy Public Radio.... and some of the Northern All-Stars taking school assignments home over Labor Day weekend....
COMING FRIDAY: What about that other sport we've been promoting here? You won't believe how it started.....
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