Savage Words: Thankful for so many things, including sports

Tom Savage, contributing writer

I’m thankful for many things, and last week reminded me why sports is one of them

Thanksgiving week is a chance for all to remember what we’re thankful for. Like everyone else, my reasons run deep. Love from family and dodging a health scare earlier this year both get to the top of my list in a hurry.

But on a simpler scale, I’m thankful and grateful for my love of sports. From an early age, it was my dream to be a sportswriter. Like every other kid my age growing up on the east side of Sioux Falls, the dreams of being the next Vikings quarterback slowly faded when reality kicked in. I’m thankful that at a young age I caught the writing bug and had the right people around me to pursue a career in it.

The first game story I was scheduled to write was on Halloween, 1991. However, it actually came a few nights later. If you’re too young to remember, Google ‘Sioux Falls Halloween winter storm of 1991’. That storm canceled everything, but the time for my first byline was coming. 

Stories about games somehow write themselves. I enjoy doing them, and I’ve probably written more than 500 of them in my career.

But what I really love is telling feature stories about sports. Those are the ones I love to chase. And sometimes, they simply unfold in the most unlikely places.

Like last week. On the west side of Sioux Falls, I stopped for a quick sandwich at Jersey Mike’s Subs on the corner of 57th and Louise Avenue. As I sat down for my first bite, I realized I was lucky to get there when I did because a bus pulled up and a long line of teenagers snaked their way through the parking lot and into the restaurant.

All girls, all giggling, all with an extra pep in their step. A quick glance up from my sandwich, and I noticed “EPJ” on the sweatshirt of one of the girls. Another had Huskies Volleyball, and it didn’t take long for me to grin.

One night earlier, the Elk Point Jefferson volleyball team had pulled the upset of the season during the Class A state tournament at the Sanford Premier Center. The No.8 seeded Huskies defeated top-seed Wagner.

When it comes to coaching in high school sports, it’s pretty obvious that coaching staffs are responsible for much more than the X’s and O’s. It was no different last week at Jersey Mike’s. EPJ assistant coach Tami Goehring was the first in the door, and she headed straight to the checkout counter. Moments later, she had direction from the Jersey Mike’s manager as the huddled mass of Huskies patiently waited behind her.

“If you’re getting a hot sandwich, go to the front of the line,” she said as she pointed directly to the line entrance.

She made several trips back-and-forth between her team and the checkout counter over the next several minutes.

As the Huskies stood in line, some were hyper and just bounced up and down. Another braided the hair of a teammate in front of her as they waited to order. There were laughs and the decibel level in the restaurant ramped up when the Huskies were inside.

As I finished and made my way to the exit, Coach Goehring and I made eye contact. 

“Big win last night, coach. Congratulations,” I said. “Good luck tonight.”

She grinned, and almost looked a bit taken back.

“That’s so nice for someone from Sioux Falls to notice,” she said.

I noticed. 

EPJ lost to eventual champion Sioux Falls Christian later that night, but rebounded to defeat No. 2 Miller in the 3rd-4th place game on Saturday.

Knocking off the tournament’s top two seeds: that’s not a bad run for an 8 seed. I’m glad I got to see a glimpse of it, even if a by-chance encounter at a sandwich shop.

I love sports, and I’m thankful for them.



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