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AUSTIN EDITION - It's the most wonderful time of the year

Christmas is a time for reflection on the good things in life, but there is also a downside or "Scrooge" effect to the festivities of the holiday season.

Sometimes, it's easier to say "bah-humbug" and in the sports world this is especially true. For every positive reaction to the big events during the past year, there has been an inevitable backlash.

Case in point is the Minnesota Vikings. It's been enjoyable to watch them win in dramatic fashion the last couple of weeks, but it doesn't warrant the head coach being given a Gatorade dumping for a 5-10 record. It's certainly not like it used to be when the Vikings were getting ready for the playoffs around Christmas.

Coaching changes

The high school football season also provided many highs and lows for local teams this past fall. Most notable were the changes among the coaching ranks.

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Dick Strand of Southland and Stan Olson of LeRoy-Ostrander both retired last season after each coached for nearly 30 years. Austin coach Steve Knox also stepped down in the offseason after 16 years.

There was much to celebrate after long careers on the sidelines for these three coaches, but their departures also leave a legacies of unfulfilled possibilities.

Strand retired with a state championship to his credit in 1983. Yet, when the season ended in the section playoffs at Dover-Eyota, the finality of the moment brought on an emotional tone. The D-E Eagles had beaten the Rebels the last two times they played in the playoffs under Strand, now there would be no more chances.

Olson went into retirement without his elusive state title. Olson built the "Big Red" of L-O into a powerhouse on the gridiron, but repeated trips to the Metrodome never resulted in the coveted championship. Instead, the long career of Olson came to end at Verndale and the Pirates went on to win the state title.

Knox came off his worst season as the Packers head coach with only two wins. The longtime Austin coach never got to the state finals, but his teams did play in a few memorable section championship games.

Swimming tales

The dichotomy of sports was also evident for swimming referee Rob Bowe of Austin. After recently getting his certification to be a lane official for NCAA meets, Bowe got the chance to work at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.

However, the meet came on the same weekend as the girls state swim meet and Bowe is also an official for the Minnesota State High School League. Then, there was no confirmation of the college meet for Bowe as school officials had the wrong phone number and couldn't contact him.

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Bowe worked the meet in late November and broke into the world of officiating at NCAA Division III events. But the meet for Gustavus came against the University of Wisconsin-Steven's Point, where Bowe's son competed in college.

"It was a different feeling to see all of my old friends from Steven's Point in the crowd," Bowe said. "I thought they might give me a hard time, but they were gracious to a rookie official."

Marcusen cover

In the recent edition of Hardball magazine, which is devoted to amateur baseball and softball leagues, there was a shot of Marcusen Park on the cover. This was taken by my Post-Bulletin colleague Ken Hanson at the Hiawatha Senior League playoffs.

The tinting used on the cover makes for a nice effect. Yet, even this nice photo recalls the uncertain future of the old ballpark. How many more times will reporters get to cover baseball games along the banks of the Cedar River?

The holidays are a wonderful time to sort through the highs and lows of life. It's kind of like a toboggan ride, but of course we don't have much snow.

Scott Kolb is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. His column appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at skolb@postbulletin.com.

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