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Big Sydney, The Great Liberator

August 27, 1999

Excuse me while I catch my breath.

Thanks. So much for that New Year's resolution about getting this aging, flabby body in shape this year.

Today, your favorite, humble, part-time resident Morning Herald pigskin prognosticator begins his 30th season of work (if you can call this work, and I have the court order that says I can).

For those of you who might be newcomers to this space, or might have been in outer space since this odyssey (or oddity) began in 1970, this is what we do:

Each Friday morning, from now until the last local high school team is eliminated from the playoffs (I could tell you right now who, where and when that'll happen, but that wouldn't be sporting, would it?), readers of this column can learn, in advance, the scores of the coming weekend's local prep, college and pro football games.

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Simply put, I have now freed up your weekend for whatever you want to do besides watch a football game. Hit the beach (the kids are heading back to school, so it's less crowded), do 18 holes, water your lawn (excuse me, I meant to say "rat on your neighbor for watering his lawn"), catch a movie, read a book, write a book, sip some instant lemonade and contemplate nature.

Just call me Syd, The Great Liberator.

But, if you must watch football, you still can.

If I've picked your favorite team to win, fine; go to the game to savor the already assured victory and cash in on some sucker bets with people who don't get the Herald on Fridays.

Or, if I've picked your team to lose, there's still no reason not to go to the stadium. Even if you already know things are going to get ugly on the field, there's still plenty to do. Hang out with your buds, check out the marching band, chew on a corn dog and, finally, in the fourth quarter of a 38-6 blowout, loudly work the coach to give your kid or best friend some more P.T.

If you're a fan of the Ravens, Redskins, Steelers or Eagles, who might win a combined 30 games this year, this column is especially helpful.

Considering the alternative ways our parents, spouses or significant others might want us to spend their autumn Sundays with them, tuning the tube to the NFL is still the way to go. But instead of watching the ineptitude on the top of your screen, just lock in on the Fox Ticker at the bottom to see how your fantasy league picks are doing. Beats spending the afternoon at a wine-tasting festival.

The pros don't start playing for keeps for another two weeks, so we have until then to ponder a strange new NFL world in which Dimitrius Underwood and Lawrence Phillips have jobs and John Elway and Barry Sanders don't.

Closer to home, the first weekend of high school and college ball brings us at least two matchups with mondo postseason implications.

In Bunker Hill, W.Va., Musselman, last year's top-ranked prep team in the Mountain State, faces a Martinsburg team which is hoping to build on its state playoff appearance last year.

On Saturday, in Whatsanittany, Pa., Penn State begins what its ever-optimistic fans are convinced will be a march for the national title when it hosts Arizona in the Pigskin Classic. If Arizona is as good as the Left Coast people say they are, this game could amount to a national semifinal game; or at least a preview of the next Rose Bowl.

So let's get to it. Read on and be informed (or forewarned). And if I happen to make an occasional mistake (hey, it happened 22.6 percent of the time last season), caveat emptor, baby.

On with the predictions (last season: 219-64, .774):

HIGH SCHOOLS




Tonight's games

Musselman 28, Martinsburg 20 - At least it won't be 40-0 at halftime. Bulldogs almost catch up with Mosby and the Applemen.

Wheeling Park 26, Hedgesville 13 - Eagles will have to get out of "Park" if they're going to launch a playoff drive.

Jefferson 25, Loudoun County 19 - Cougars silence Loudoun in opener.

Hampshire 33, Berkeley Springs 15 - Indians don't have the horses to match up with Trojans.

COLLEGES




Penn State 20, Arizona 17 (Pigskin Classic) - Arizona, take off your rainbow shades.

Temple 22, Maryland 21 (next Thursday) - Owls over Terps in matchup of conference bottom-feeders, if anyone gives a hoot.

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