Jared Lankford: True fans involved in the relationship business

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I have been privileged to call a few sporting events on local radio in recent years.

Radio broadcasting captivated my imagination as a child, and it is something that I thoroughly enjoy.

My first taste of audio mass communication came as an 8-year-old reading public service announcements at KBTN in Neosho for National 4-H Week.

PSAs are pre-written, 30-second informative pieces that make the listener think, react or learn about a certain subject.

A quarter-of-a-century later, I still read PSAs, just during athletic events. One that I am required to read from time to time begins with this phrase.

"The score of any athletic event is generally forgotten over time, but the actions of players, coaches and spectators leave lasting impressions."

While this PSA is designed to remind fans of players about their actions during a contest, it draws upon the idea of leaving a legacy.

On Thursday, I was given a double-dose reminder of exactly what this PSA means.

The day started out with over 20 members of my family assembling at a community room in Seneca to watch the Citrus Bowl with Missouri and Minnesota.

My family members are devout Tigers fans. Yet, on this day, my uncle chose to throw his allegiance to the side of the Golden Gophers.

On the surface, it seemed like a recipe for disaster, with him upsetting the balance of Mizzou fandom that permeates the Lankford household, not to mention he is a Missouri alumnus.

However, being a true fan is about relationships. If you watch two teams, that you've never seen play, you try to find something you can relate to, something to hold your interest.

What caused my uncle to change half-a-century of loyalties for one game was the Gophers coach, Jerry Kill.

My uncle was the superintendent at Webb City when Kill was hired and led the Cardinals to their first football state title.

My uncle recalled what a great motivator Kill was and that his drive to make those around him better was very endearing.

I personally remember watching Kill's Cardinals defeat Sumner for the title in 1989. I also recall his Emporia State teams playing MSSU in Joplin. Kill was also the coach at Southern Illinois when they played my alma mater, Missouri State.

Kill's influence has even reached Monett and Cassville. Bret Gosch, former Wildcats coach, and Lance Gosch football coach at Reeds Spring, were exposed to Kill at Webb City where their father, Tom, was the athletic director.

With all these ties, we were not lacking for conversations pieces.

Thursday night, I found myself watching the Sugar Bowl. With each carry the Buckeyes' running back Ezekiel Elliot received, my fan side wanted Alabama to gang tackle him, but the journalist side reflected back to a November Saturday, two years ago when I watched him run up and down the field at Burl Fowler Stadium in Monett.

Being able to relate to people, places and events is one quality that makes sports great, in my opinion.

We may not recall the final scores of games, but we remember good seasons, great players, defining moments and we cherish them.

The PSA concludes with: "The next time you attend a high school game, think of how history will remember you."

We tend to gravitate to events that we can related to, I would hope that years from now, we can relate to a coach or a player like my uncle can to Jerry Kill.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or sports@cassville-democrat.com.

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