In the recent listing of rodeo information relative to the Elizabeth Stampede, one of the three officials named was Mark Longoria. If I’m not mistaken, this is the same Mark Longoria who graduated from the late lamented East Chicago Washington High School in 1979.
He broke in auspiciously as a rodeo rider in 1980 as Rookie of the Year for the Great Lakes Circuit. He won in Great Lakes four times.
He competed inter-collegiately while attending Southwestern College. At the national finals at Brozeman, Montana, he finished in the top 10 in the nation, and seven of the performers got together and formed a team, which led to upgraded Southwestern Texas University.
That team really put Southwestern on the map, as they became national champions. Mark was in the top three in the nation in bull riding, which became his specialty.
Having someone at the top of the heap struck me as one of those odd situations where the biggest sport was one thing and the most important thing the other. That is, the era that saw football become the biggest sport saw basketball becoming the most important.
Football drew the biggest, most raucous crowds, while basketball paid all the bills. Fringe sports, and that would include baseball, merely incurred a cost for uniforms and equipment.
It seems to me that all of these sports or competitions should be represented in the halls of fame of the various cities of the Calumet Region. To become truly good at a so-called "minor sport" requires just as much work and dedication as it does to become good at a major sport.
For one reason or another, I got drawn into minor sports, including soccer, which is not so minor to the rest of the world.
One of my McLean uncles was tapped to be a member of the U.S. World Cup Soccer team in 1934. Of course, calling soccer (or football, as it is known worldwide) a minor sport is like calling Esther Williams a pretty good swimmer.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the world. But, such is the nature of provincialism.
Obviously, tennis is a sport to be taken seriously. Just watch TV. But other net sports deserve attention, too. Volleyball, for example, has become an avidly-played and watched sport since the Olympics held in Japan.
Another sport with great potential is badminton. I once was drawn into a badminton tournament that almost undid me. Until that tournament, I didn’t know a badminton from a goodminton.
But I learned and I practiced, most intensely on Saturdays. Finally, I got into games and I did fairly well, mainly because my extraordinary reach kept me in various games. I got all the way to the final game of the tourney, but lost to Wilbur Clark. Previously, though, I had disposed of a former city champion, Gene Huish.
Other sports that could yield hall of fame members are bowling, handball and tumbling. Who knows, maybe a hall of fame will someday devote space to the champion of quoits.