Originally created 04/21/00

Augusta in midst of sports boom

If anything, Lynx goalie Judd Lambert is worth the price of admission. And the early reports about Stallions quarterback Aaron Sparrow indicate Augusta's newest gunslinger may be just cause for dipping into the wallet a little deeper.

See, the challenge now is squarely on Augusta's sports fans' shoulders. The owners and teams have their part. We'll get to find out what kind of sports town our little Garden City is in the next couple of days.

I know, it's not fair for me to sit atop a perch and ask a community to invest its money, time and emotion to support sports teams. You owe a team nothing. You owe me nothing.

But if you enjoy sports, as I do, and you appreciate the effort of lots of local folks creating an entertainment option for you and your family, then you might want to meander downtown and revel in the boom time.

In this post-Masters malaise, this town brings you options: arena football, the new endeavor; minor league baseball, the old staple; playoff hockey, the current buzz.

The Augusta Stallions, 7 months old, bring the cacophony of indoor football to the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center tonight in a game against Jacksonville. The league is new, the team is new, the sport is almost new.

Heck, I couldn't tell you all the rules or exactly what a "jack" linebacker is or how that receiver who gets a head start in motion never seems to be offside.

But I do know that if a football flies into the crowd, you're not going to be asked to throw it back. And there's a good chance of some roller derby tackles, with guys crashing into walls and helmets flying into the front row. And there will be points, almost as many as an NBA game.

So for less than the price of a gas tank fill-up, you can make a definitive statement about owner Frank Lawrence, general manager Scott Skadan and coach Mike Neu, the three men most responsible for creating another avenue to strain your vocal cords.

Far be it from me to tell you where to spend your Friday night. I'm just saying that if the lines at Carrabba's are too long, then watch a little football first and eat later.

And it's about time the hockey fans crawled out of whatever closets they've been hiding in.

Games 3 and 4 against Florida on Sunday and Monday combined to draw fewer than 6,000 fans, including a meager 2,200-plus for the exciting 4-2 Game 4 win. Twenty-two hundred? Empty seats could be seen from Broad Street and beyond.

Sure, those who attended were throaty and devoted, several dressing up with pucks on heads. The core Lynx fans have remained through the team's Stynx days.

But what a statement it would be if the Lynx skated out to a standing ovation next week from a full house that rocked and socked and acknowledged how this team literally has risen from its November ashes.

The Lynx, left for dead by yours truly, certainly have done their part, clinching two playoff series wins away from home, first in New Orleans, second in Fort Myers, Fla.

All they've done is bounce the East Coast Hockey League's best team into premature summer golf. All Lambert hass done is evolve into the Great Wall of Augusta, turning away invaders with each butterfly split.

Then there's Louis Dumont and Stacey Rayan, two guys short enough to play in the Burger King playground, playing way above their heads.

And if you've never experienced playoff hockey in person, there's really nothing like it. You're guaranteed to start despising the Greenville Grrrowl if you show up at the civic center Thursday.

OK, I'll get off my soapbox now. You're smart enough to know what to do with your time.

Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.


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