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September 20, 2012There was in the news yesterday two stories, both of them sports related, which dealt with loss. Between them they should bring some perspective to the world of sports, and their place in our lives.
Like many of you, I am curious about new Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim Miles and where he's taking our Husker program. The good news for Miles is, it can't get much worse.
Or can it? While Miles had a great summer by all accounts, recruiting fearlessly in places where NU coaches haven't bothered even trying over the years - think Chicago AAU - on Wednesday night his program suffered a gut shot, losing out on the most dynamic, made-for-Division I talent our state has seen in some time.
Omaha Central's Akoy Agau, after an in-home visit from head coach Rick Pitino, committed to take his talents to Louisville, a nationally known powerhouse with a national championship pedigree. Can't blame the kid, that sounds like a good deal to me.
In the process he left the Huskers in the dust. It was a cold slap in the face, a reminder of where Nebrasketball really ranks in the world of men's college basketball. Will Agau become an all-American at Louisville? Dunno, but whether he's an all-American or a nice role player, it would have been nice to see him our red and white, not Louisville's.
With that behind him, Agau can no go about the business of helping his Omaha Central high school team go about the business of winning its fourth straight state title. You know, sports stuff.
THE OTHER STORY about loss was much more profound and had little to do with sports, only the young men who play them.
Two Nebraska kids, two former Huskerland guys, now Doane College students and football teammates, out for an evening of fun and frivolity. Innocent enough, though the hour was late enough where the rule about how nothing good happens after midnight came into play.
As it was, Cody Barnes and one of his best friends, Cody Fanning, were with a group heading back from an outing when the accident happened. Barnes was the driver when Fanning fell out of the back of his pick-up, hitting his head and later dying.
I first heard of this horrible event the following day while I was in Beatrice, ironically enough visiting with new Doane basketball coach Jim Weeks, who was leaving BHS for his new job. He told me there'd been a terrible accident involving two football players but knew nothing else. And neither did I until the next day.
When official word made the news, and I heard the names, my heart sank even deeper. Barnes and Fanning were typical small-town kids, both of them outstanding high school football players, both of whom we tracked in Huskerland Prep Report during their careers.
Barnes, the Elwood High School star who was actually an HPR cover boy during his senior year, is the son of a former Arnold High School schoolmate of mine. His involvement, sad as it was, made me ill.
I didn't know Cody Fanning personally, only by reputation, that of being a smallish, but fearless two-way star at Wauneta-Palisade. Toughness and that fearlessness, they were part and parcel of what made Fanning a football player who exceeded expectations, right until the end of his career.
Sentencing for Cody Barnes, who was charged with misdemeanor vehicular homicide, was handed down on Tuesday; he was given a year's probation, a deal which according to published accounts was OK'd by Fanning's mother.
You see, Cody and Cody were not just friends, they were best friends. The Fanning family thought so much of Barnes they asked him to be a pall bearer in his friend's funeral. Barnes actually spent a couple of days at the Fanning home prior to the funeral, sharing in time of grief and mourning with the family of his friend.
We are going to go out and see some football games this weekend, some of you will play in those games, and they will be entertaining and fun for all involved. But about the time you start getting worked up about your team coming up short in The Big Game, remember stories of Akoy Agau and Cody Barnes and Cody Fanning.
There is more than one kind of loss in this world, and losing a high school football game isn't the worst kind.