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Jock-ularity can be fun

Jock-ularity can be fun

   Running into numerous well-known and successful athletes, coaches and sports figures during 17 years as a reporter, mainly in community journalism, has been fun.
   But something tells me 2002 will be as much fun as most of my past years put together.
   One reason is because Madras is an understanding community. At least I hope area readers don't mind my passing along a birthday greeting to a former defensive left end for the Washington Redskins who started in Super Bowl XVIII in late January 1984. The same player happened to scrimmage against Kenny Mayne years before Mayne began hosting ESPN's "Two Minute Warning." He was also a classmate of the Mike Morgan you may have watched pitch a couple innings for Arizona in the 2001 World Series.
   How could anyone in Madras know such trivial information about a history teacher at Herndon (Va.) High?
   Maybe it's because that defensive end named Todd Liebenstein was fun to drag around our yard when delusions of grandeur transfigured me into the great Green Bay Packer fullback Jim Taylor -- for about a half hour on fall afternoons, after school. Because I was 12 or 13 and Todd still just 9, it was not impossible to power through him and others. That was before he grew taller (to almost 6-7), quicker, bigger and stronger. Later I realized the day he was born, Jan. 9, in Wisconsin, was also the birthday of Bart Starr, the former Green Bay Packer quarterback whose championship game play was capped as Super Bowl I and II Most Valuable Player.
   Coincidentally, our family got to watch Todd play in back-to-back Super Bowls. That was the most exhilarating combination of pride and fun I had experienced at the time. Notification of impending brother-in-law status and, a few years later, of being an uncle, eclipsed them. Super Bowl action is more visible on television, but pales in comparison the emotion and adrenaline generated by being at the event in person.
   While the family members and friends of Madras High's girls basketball team were undoubtedly thrilled beyond description in some sense, I can relate somewhat with those at the state championship girls basketball game of last year. Reaching the pinnacle of competition at any level is exciting.
   Yet, looking back, one state tournament memory helps me realize that even the Super Bowl is hardly a matter of life and death. Playing in the large-school state basketball tournament of March 1978 was a time of anxiety and thrills for many who did so, but for one player -- Todd Liebenstein -- thinking of a father undergoing surgery on a brain tumor was more consuming.
   Trying to be like a celebrity on whose birthday you were born can be a good goal -- I only wish I could approach the skill Dick Schaap (born Sept. 27) brought to reporting -- but Todd should be listed among the noteworthy born Jan. 9.
   Besides being special for me as Todd's birthday because it is shared with Bart Starr and near Elvis' birthday, Jan. 9 is a presidential birthday. But Richard Nixon will probably be more remembered for Watergate than getting out of Vietnam and establishing Chinese diplomatic ties.
   There is, however, at least a bit in common among many birthday sharers. Of the Jan. 9 birthday sharers I know, most were leaders in their time. They were as concerned with helping a team win as winning themselves. My brother and Starr shared more, but even Nixon shared accomplishments.
   Madras residents with friends whose birthdays are coming up are encouraged to flatter those friends with tales of how those friends have helped others. Publishing anecdotes about players and coaches would be a pleasure.
   Whether about veteran coaches like Bruce Reece, transplanted experienced leaders like Dan Hiatt, Patti Wright or Mark Sheets, or present athletes like Mark Coy, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeff and Tara Barnes and so on, -- please pass them along. It is among my resolutions to attempt to use readers ideas and voices as the basis of future feature stories.
   I also want to get out and experience some of the scenery I have only seen from a distance. It should be easy to explain how humbling or invigorating, depending on scores, a round of golf at varied area courses can be. Watching the golfers and tennis players at Madras High should help me recall how close some are to being another Phil Agassi or Rita Agassi. Those two happen to be older siblings of more publicized Alex. I was fortunate to interview Phil for a story in a college publication and track Rita's outstanding high school and college play coming out of Las Vegas.
   Older siblings can be the path setters for younger brothers and sisters. If such bias shows in reports on Nicole Main or Jacoby Ellsbury or others -- by flattering them as Jayleen Main's and others older siblings -- it is unintentional and I apologize to Jefferson County's younger siblings.
   Whether the Macys from Culver now at George Fox University or others, I hope to celebrate various siblings from among the area's athletes. Jake and Jamie Jaca are just one such example.
   I know younger brothers and sisters wind up stuck with high expectations. That is whye I hope the admiration I have for all middle and youngest brothers and sisters is translated.
   Learning the tale of Three Sisters and which is eldest and youngest is another of my resolutions. Hiking in a guide's group would be healthier but meeting someone knowledgeable enough about local lore or geology to explain the difference would be just as fun.
   With Crooked River, Smith Rock and other equally scenic areas available, I know this year will feature breathtaking and invigorating sights, off the .