Just so you know, I didn’t overpack. The sky was leaden Tuesday, heavy with the threat of rain, and I had football games to time. Otherwise this threat would have been a promise, the potential of some badly-needed moisture. It’s funny how perspectives change based on our personal needs, hm?
Even though the forecast had halved from the 60 percent chance of rain at game time that was promised/threatened as of Monday, I packed as though it was going to rain: sweatshirt, midweight jacket with rain-shedding potential, rain poncho, slicker, umbrella, gloves, beanie, towels.
The towels weren’t for me but rather for the footballs, a service I ended up not providing when the brand-new remote that last week limited me to remaining within 50 yards of the scoreboard now tethered me within 20 yards. The new handheld device also frequently froze or lost the image on the screen although the scoreboard itself continued to function normally.
Mary, the athletic director who stopped looking for a third official after eight people turned her down, told me she would call the scoreboard company on Wednesday. But her anniversary was yesterday, so she wasn’t at volleyball to tell me what, if anything, she’d learned.
Being stuck much closer than usual to the scoreboard did have its advantages Tuesday. Normally I trail the team on offense by about 10 yards, so I can keep track of the action, communicate with the officials and swap out footballs.
That last part isn’t an official duty of the timekeeper, but if you’ve ever been at a middle-school anything, you know kids that age are not great at listening, and officials are reduced to shouting “Ball! Ball!” endlessly at both sidelines while boys stand right in front of a football carelessly cast on the ground. We save a lot of time if I hold the game balls, and on days like Tuesday when the game itself is taking forever, rain is threatening and darkness is descending, you take your savings where you get them.
Because I was so limited in my range, however (the scoreboard is located at the south end of the field), the officials gave up on my services and tasked coaches with the ball responsibility. This left me free to edge backward to the scoreboard as needed, where I had left my overstuffed backpack.
I started with my sweatshirt and jacket, then went back to add my rain poncho. When the sprinkling started in earnest and was getting all over the face of the already-finicky remote, I opted for the umbrella I had debated bringing with a 30 percent chance of rain. Good call on my part.
Midway through the eighth-grade game — the first game this team has managed at home due to a lack of player numbers from other schools (Olathe only brought 14 eighth graders) — I reached for my winter gloves and the beanie Kara had let me take from work when I realized I left my new alien beanie at home.
I did think about putting on my slicker, but that would have meant discarding several other layers, even if only temporarily, so I left it to cover my backpack and some random boy’s iPhone as he goofed around with friends behind the end zone.
Just one week earlier, when the combined seventh-eighth-grade game fizzled out due to lightning, the small spattering of rain had still been warm. Now, as a gloom descended so thickly it was hard to see the numbers on my remote (though the scoreboard with its red numbers burned brightly) and my fingers rejoiced in their fuzzy gloves, it was clear: winter is coming.
It was just that bit colder, that bit grayer, that bit darker sooner (and I was shaving all kinds of seconds off that I wasn’t supposed to, letting the clock run while setting up for first downs and not stopping after incomplete passes — quick to start and slow to stop, that’s the motto of a middle-school timer) . . . if the yellow trees weren’t a clue, the weather certainly was.
I did not get the full story of the weather’s effect on Gunnison sports until yesterday at middle school volleyball. Emily, a teacher who was once a student in Gunnison schools, has two daughters, an eighth-grader playing volleyball and a sophomore softballer.
Emily was keeping the volleyball clock (in a sport where there’s no chance to run random seconds off), but on Tuesday she was a spectator for a soggy double-header against Cedaredge. The rain that started in earnest just after I got into my car with all my damp layers caused a delay for the second high school softball game with the teams tied at 8.
At 8 p.m. everyone decided the rain wasn’t going to stop, and it was too wet and cold to finish up — and so next week the Gunnison team will travel to Cedaredge to finish the inning and a half remaining in the game. That’s a long way to go for a little bit of softball, so I gather this game must be important for league standings.
GMS has one more set of two football games at home Tuesday before the Mustangs call it a season. Right now the weather is telling me it will be cloudy but dry — but this is the same weather that gave it a 15% chance of rain yesterday at 6 p.m. when volleyball wrapped up and I went outside to confront a sky full of 15%. And me on my bike, but with my rain poncho at the ready.
Because if we didn’t know it before, we do now: it’s fall, and winter is on its gray way.