In the Bleachers with Billy

The sports fan in me can’t help but chuckle whenever the word – playoffs -- is said in any context, at any time.

Professional football coach Jim Mora, coaching the Indianapolis Colts at the time, said the word in a squawking, cartoon bird-like accent during a spirited rant about how bad the Colts’ offense played (yes, with Peyton Manning running the show) during a postgame news conference. It’s one of the funniest sound bytes in the history of pro sports news conferences.

It will forever live on in the age of YouTube, the Internet and that beer commercial.

He was appalled that a reporter even brought up the thought of the postseason after the way the Colts played that day, so whenever the high school sports playoffs come around, I sit back and enjoy that clip every single time.

“Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs?” Mora yelled as he made a face like he was trying to pass kidney stones and sneeze at the same time. It’s really one of the best.

No, Jim. I’m not kidding. It’s time for the playoffs.

For Madras High School athletics, the tennis season ended last week without any Buffs qualifying for the state tournament, but the girls finished third as a team, so kudos to them for a nice accomplishment.

High school tennis is one of those sports where the best players have to play year-round. It’s such a precise game; every shot needs to be handled with care, either blasted down the line or softly played barely over the net, and that feel can only be obtained with court time in both practice and tournament play.

Being able to play all the time takes two things a lot of families in this area don’t have much of, time and money. It seems to be the popular excuse for kids that just aren’t good enough to hack it at the state level, but how are you supposed to know if you can if you don’t have a chance to try?

Tennis has always had the reputation for being a “rich kid’s sport,” and a sport that simply turns up its nose at the thought of a kid not wearing new LaCoste polo shirts and a nice Prince racket in their hands.

Is that fair to the game of tennis? Probably not, but that still doesn’t stop people from steering their kids away from the game.

It’s tough for the kids from out here to compete with kids from the Willamette Valley because of access to courts year-round. It’s not a secret. There are a ton of racket clubs in the Portland Metro area. That isn't the case out here, unless someone has the wallet to make it happen.

It’s a vicious cycle for tennis players out here, but if they keep working at it, they’ll break through eventually.

The MHS baseball and softball teams kick off the postseason this week with play-in games. If the teams win, they will advance to the official OSAA playoffs, their name in the cool bracket online and the chance to keep playing ball.

If a team is still playing ball in late May, something went right during the season, and many times the playoffs are about the teams that are the hottest.

If a team peaks at the right time, and I can think of a Madras baseball team that rode the hot streak all the way to the Class 5A semifinals in 2010, crazy things can happen.

The Buffs have a formidable opponent in front of them in the Klamath Union Pelicans. And while this game wins the award for “best mascot pairing in a high school playoff matchup,” it could also be the start of something big for the Buffs.

From a power ratings standpoint, a win by Madras would be an “upset.” KU is rated No. 11 and Madras is No. 21, but they have identical 13-11 records, and both leagues are pretty tough this season.

But let’s not forget the biggest factor of them all – all these kids are in high school. It’s a small miracle if they remember to turn the dryer on after they load it, let alone stay focused on winning a playoff game. Trust me, I’ve been there before.

The MHS softball team gets to play North Marion one more time, and hopefully even the score at two games apiece. After Friday's dramatic walk-off home run off Sarah Brown’s bat gave the Buffs their first win against the Huskies in three tries this year, it’s easy to see the Buffs riding the wave of momentum like Gerard Butler works a maverick.

It will be interesting to see, at least to me, who starts the game in the pitching circle for Madras. Will it be the veteran, senior Jamie Moe, who has all sorts of playoff experience? Or will it be the dynamic freshman hurler Jasmyn Reese, that North Marion hasn’t seen much of, if at all, this year? I would tend to go toward the experienced pitcher, but that’s just me.

And last, but certainly not least, the Madras and Culver track teams are at districts this week. I expect the Culver girls team to bring home some district hardware and qualify a nice contingent for state. I also think the Madras boys can put together a nice performance and collect a few medals themselves.

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