A Tale Of Forgiveness

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Anyone who has coached any sport on any skill level should read John Grisham's novel "Bleachers."

I received the book last fall as a gift from family friends Dave and Dawn Thomas of Tempe.

Once I began to read through it, the novel was almost impossible to put down.

I don't want to reveal the plot for those who haven't read "Bleachers," but the story centers on a legendary football team, the Messina Spartans, and its coach Eddie Rake.

During his time as coach of the Spartans, Rake molded the team into a gridiron dynasty.

Fifteen years after those glory days, coach Rake's "boys" have returned home to bury him. Following his passing, they relive old memories and try to decide whether they loved or hated their coach.

One of Rake's players, High School All-American Neely Crenshaw, has harbored a lifelong grudge against the coach and his strong-handed ways.

In a 1987 championship game, Crenshaw's promising career was ended by an injury he believes the coach contributed to.

For Crenshaw to get on with his life, he must find a way to finally forgive the coach and himself.

For all of us old coaches, the book can't help but make us wonder how we were perceived by our former players.

The book is available at www.jgrisham.com or any online bookseller.

Pick it up, it's a good one.

More on coaching

A high school football coach, also a good friend, is taking some heat from parents, administrators and other critics mostly because his team didn't have a banner season last fall. He's shouldering most of the problems the team and players waded through during the dismal year.

He has a personal motto about criticism by the unknowing that I find fitting.

He likens critics to "the people who come down from the hills after the battle to shoot the wounded."

Girls fast pitch on tap

The State of Arizona Junior High Softball Classic Tournament has openings for six more teams. The fast-pitch tournament will be Feb. 13 to 15 at the City of Anthem softball complex.

Registration is open to all junior high/middle school girls teams. Club teams and those affiliated with recreation departments also are welcome. There will be both "A" and "B" brackets.

For more information, call (480) 451-4942.

Last chance for Little League

Registration for summer Little League will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Jan. 31 at the Payson Inn.

Youngsters 7- to- 15-years-of-age (as of July 31, 2004) are eligible to participate.

When registering, players must bring their birth certificates. The fee is $40 per player. There is a discount available for families who have more than one youngster participating in the program.

At the registration, officials also will accept applications for team managers and coaches.

Following the tryouts, minor, major and senior coaches draft players to their teams. The farm league does not draft.

Barton anticipates play will being in mid-April and continue into June.

For more information, call Barton at (928) 468-1711 or Little League vice president Mark Frantzke at (928) 474-2746.

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