Hard Facts: More than a football game

July 26, 2008 11:21 am

They’re here.

For the next week 4A/3A/2A/1A Oregon High School Shrine Game football players will make Eastern Oregon University their home away from home.

For three local players it wasn’t such a long journey — well to some degree. Ben Garnett, Joseph, Kaden Titus, Union, and Michael Stephens, Powder Valley, all made the 4 1/2 hour trip to Wilsonville.

The purpose for the trek is to be a team — no matter if you’re on the East or West team.

For a week they’ll live together on the campus of EOU.

They’ll eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together. Practice together. And then travel to Baker City together.

Sure, the game at Bulldog Stadium is big. It’s going to be covered by Fox Sports  Northwest for the third straight year. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m., with pre-game starting at 2 p.m.

The East owns a 30-22 advantage in the series — there were two ties and the game wasn’t played in 1969.

For many of the players it’s the last time they’ll put on pads, cleats and helmets.

The Shrine game is more than that. So much more.

More than touchdowns and tackles.

In fact, I would wager to say the most important part of the weekend already started.

Youth sports is all about the kids. But by kids we mean the athletes. But the Shrine Game takes it to another level. When they say kids, they mean kids. 

Before leaving Wilsonville, the players, coaches and family members headed over to the Shiner’s Hospital.

They met some of the kids who benefit from the game they’re playing. They spend time with them, and form bonds with them.

For some kids it may be an eye-opening experience.

Last season the halftime steer auction raised $23,000. Net proceeds from the 2006 game totaled $87,255.

Walking the sidelines last season, I knew right away that the kids recognized the importance of this game.

All the kids commented on how the trip to the hospital affected them. It made them realize there was more to life than football, high school or for many the impending prospect of college.

For 56 years athletes have learned first hand that this game is more than just a game — more than points on a scoreboard. It provides more than just entertainment.

It helps create money and otherwise unimaginable opportunities. It helps provide a better way of life. Sometimes it gives life.