Here are a few wishes for the new year.
• That donations large and small flow in to bring the planned $7 million renovation of Bangor’s Cameron Stadium closer to reality. Things are falling in line for the Queen City to have a grouping of facilities second to none in the state to serve not only the competitive sporting interests of youngsters from the local community, but those from throughout northern and eastern Maine. With Mansfield Stadium already in place and the new Bangor arena under construction, a modern Cameron Stadium with artificial turf would give Bangor the best of all athletic worlds for a city of its size, not to mention provide an additional economic boost for the region when regional and state championship football games and track meets return to the facility.
• That the University of Maine men’s basketball team has the staying power to challenge for and win an America East championship and finally enable all of us to share first-hand in the phenomenon known as March Madness. Last year’s team teased everyone through the midpoint of the conference schedule, only to falter late in the regular season and then bow out in the opening round of the conference tournament. This year’s team, while picked to finished sixth in the conference preseason poll, has to be capable of making a deep run based on perimeter play alone led by preseason All-America East pick Gerald McLemore and potential rookie of the year Justin Edwards. And wouldn’t it be nice for once to experience that one shining moment for the four or five days between storming the court after winning the conference crown and the inevitable first-round matchup against Duke in Charlotte, N.C.?
• That all high school-age kids in the state who want to play football get that chance in the coming years, either through having more cooperative teams statewide or through the addition of an eight-player football division sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association. I don’t know how much response there will be to an upcoming MPA survey of schools as to their interest in an eight-player class, but I have to say that football is the one sport where I can be driving around north-central Maine on a Sunday afternoon and come across 10 or 12 kids playing a pickup game in some baseball outfield. It’s a sign of the times, and another sign that while baseball still claims the title of America’s pastime, football is at the heart of the nation’s sporting present and future.
• That mountain biker Adam Craig gets another crack at the Olympics and this time is able to make the most of it. The Exeter native and Dexter Regional High School graduate earned a berth on the 2008 U.S. team that competed in Beijing, but a terrible start that resulted from him being unable to lock into his bike pedals immediately sent him to the back of the pack, and from there he had to settle for a 29th-place finish. Since that Olympic appearance, Craig has remained among America’s top competitors in the International Cycling Union World Cup tour despite a torn ACL that caused him to miss much of the 2010 season. Now at age 30 he’s approaching the peak age for his sport, and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London may be his last best chance to break through on the biggest of world stages.
• Lastly, here’s hoping 2012 is a better year than 2011. It’s hard to believe it could be any worse. Happy New Year!