Saturday, August 31, 2019
This area loves sports. It always has. It’s one of the most wonderful aspects of our great American culture. Sports, at all levels, have inspired, motivated, molded and shaped many of us to be the people that we are today. Due to the tremendous influence that sports had on my life, I became a school teacher and a coach, just like my heroes: my parents.
I have had the honor and privilege to have grown up in the Mahoning Valley, where sports was ingrained into our way of life, and where the critical life lessons, principles and values that are correlated with sports was embedded into the fabric of our culture. I am so proud to be an American from this part of our country.
As we kick off the 2019 football season, I am filled with the same passion and enthusiasm that has kept me involved and immersed in sports since I was a boy. However, sad to say, this season many of the professionals in my line of work have noticed things will be very different from this point moving forward.
This season, our games will no longer be attended by a loyal family member who has been with us long before I, or any of us, were involved in high school sports. This particular member of the family has been consistent through the decades, devoted to their cause, and dependable in their reliability. Like the uncle or older brother that attended all your little league games as a kid, keeping a thorough record of the teams you played, the score and your personal performance. That family member was always there. The Vindicator was always there.
With so many serious and unresolved problems that exist in our society that seem in many instances to have no real solutions or answers, we always had sports that provided us an outlet, an escape, so-to-speak, from all these daily disputes. This escape is like an island of safety, one that we can go to, maybe for just awhile, to distract us from our problems.
You see in sports, unlike these societal problems and issues, there is a beginning and an inevitable conclusion to the contest. Throughout these community contests, real heroes and legends are born and winners declared.
Through the years, the Vindy’s talented editors have faithfully covered these contests and shared their front-line perspectives to a vast audience and, in-turn, elevated our proud community’s teams and their feats and accomplishments. Through their articles, our local teams and games were given a huge platform, and were brought to life. The coaches and players, in many instances, became larger than life characters themselves.
When speaking with several area coaches in regards to their feelings about The Vindicator no longer covering our games, all I can say is they all are very disappointed and more than concerned. Bob Spaite is the head football coach at Columbiana High School, where he has held that position for 25 years. He claimed that his earliest memories as a kid were waking up Sunday morning and reading the Vindy for the comics and the sports page, where he received info on his Browns. Coach Dan Yeagley, long-time South Range head football coach, claimed it was a tragedy of the times that the Vindy was no longer going to be there with us bringing our games to the area. Coach Curt Kuntz from Struthers claimed that listening to Denny Liebert following football Fridays and reading The Vindicator Saturday morning was almost a religious event.
What’s most interesting in speaking with my colleagues is that they all credit much of the football popularity in this area, and sports popularity in general, to the media coverage it has received through the years. In this regard, there may have been no greater proponent and catalyst to this cause than that of the Vindy. This paper should be credited, recognized and responsible for helping create and facilitate part our great American culture that exists in our valley today.
So from all of us coaches that are here today, and all our great heroes that are no longer with us but will always be in our hearts, we say thank you to the Youngstown Vindicator. Thank you for your dependability, integrity, devotion and, most of all, the loyalty to our teams and kids through the years. You always made it about the teams and our kids, and because of that you helped shape our culture forever. We will miss our great family member this season and for seasons to come. Who knows if this area we will ever get the same kind of great coverage again for high school sports. I am hopeful for the future, but as of right now ... It feels like it is midnight in the Valley.
Andy Hake is head coach of the Western Reserve High School football team.