sports column

MOUNT ABE GOALIE Kira Murray makes a sensational second-half stick save to preserve the Eagles’ lead during their 1-0 victory at UVM earlier this month in the D-II field hockey final. Also pictured are OV’s Mackenzie McKay hoping for a rebound, and Eagles Carly Rougier (No. 4) and Abigail Hoff moving in to help. Independent file photo/Steve James
In reviewing notes from high school football and field hockey games this fall it struck me how many times the most memorable plays came on defense. In looking back at soccer highlights last week more often goals stood out, possibly because scoring is rare in the sport, but also because so many games were close and decided by moments of offensive brilliance amidst the steady defense by the several strong local teams. In football, before the Tigers’ Division I semifinal, the Middlebury Union High School football team allowed only 11 points per game. Obviously defense was a strength. In field...
Saturday brought the curtain down on the 2019 fall high school sports season, which ended with an admirable Mount Abraham field hockey team winning its second straight Division II title on UVM’s slick turf surface. This year the second-seeded Eagles defeated another local team that came up just short, top-seeded Otter Valley. Although OV earned the only No. 1 seed among programs from the four local schools, there were plenty of legitimate title contenders: Middlebury football and boys’ soccer and Mount Abe and Vergennes girls’ soccer all joined Eagle field hockey in earning No. 2 seeds, and...

MATTHEW DICKERSON, LEFT, his fishing guide Steve, and Deborah Dickerson pose at a pier in southern Alabama recently showing off their catch from Mobile Bay. Photo courtesy of Matt Dickerson
Standing on a rocky shore beneath the shadow of a massive dam, I drifted small nymphs in slow-moving water that looked chest deep. A couple fish rose sporadically some distance upriver, mostly against the wooded bank on the far shore. One trout with a scarred back cruised past and disappeared downstream. Nothing showed interest in my fly. After an hour, Brandon Jackson, my guide from Riverside Fly Shop, moved us downriver, around the next bend and out of sight of the dam. The river was much shallower here, flowing swiftly over riffles and through thigh-deep pools. To me, it looked much...

COLUMNIST KARL LINDHOLM and former Middlebury College Athletic Director and men’s basketball coach Russ Reilly first made each other’s acquaintance on a Maine basketball court in 1962. This photo from Fenway Park dates back to Game 1 of the 1986 American League Championship Series. Photo courtesy of Karl Lindholm
“Where so many of us are known for singular achievements or job titles, Russ was known for being Russ Reilly.” — Erin Quinn, Middlebury College Athletic Director Russ Reilly and I first met in 1962. Russ was an 18 year-old freshman at Bates College, playing on the jayvee basketball team, and I was a senior at Lewiston High School, right around the corner from Bates, playing on the basketball team there. The two teams always played an early season game, so Russ and I calculated, after the fact, that’s how our friendship began, with a perfunctory post game handshake: “Nice game.” “Thanks.” I...

A BEAUTIFUL FALL day on a Vermont lake was marred by toxic blue-green algae that sat in a thick smear on top of the water. Photo courtesy of Matt Dickerson
The end of our hundred-yard walk carrying our canoe from the parking lot to the lake ended in something between disgust and dismay when we looked down into the water. The surface of the lake looked nothing like water. It appeared more like green paint — like a bucket of latex ready to be spread on the side of a house. We couldn’t have seen a rock half an inch below the surface, it was so thick and opaque. Neither my wife nor I had any interest in setting our canoe down on top of it, risking getting whatever it was on our sandals or skin or even on our beautiful golden canoe. But neither did...
I have a complex relationship with fishing gear. It’s like one of the old status question about whether two people are dating, and the answer is, “It’s complicated.”  I’m a big fan of fishing gear. That’s not complex. I’m a big fan of fishing, and at least some fishing gear is necessary for fishing. (Though, as it turns out, much of it isn’t.) I’ve had a set of fly rods for several years that I’m quite happy with. They don’t wear out, and as long as I can avoid slamming them in car doors, sitting on them in canoes, or catching the tips on tree trunks when walking along river banks, they...
It’s time for a look at the good, the bad and the ugly — a.k.a. the Boston sports teams. Well, to be fair, it really should be just the good and the mediocre. Just to be straight here, there will be no complaints while talking about the teams with lesser prospects. Twelve championships since 2001 among the Patriots (six), Red Sox (four), and Bruins and Celtics (one apiece) gives those of us who spent our crucial formative years rooting for Boston-area teams nothing to gripe about. So, the good — the Patriots. Yes, injuries and legal issues — Antonio Brown, we hardly knew ye, thankfully — have...

A MEMBER OF the New Haven River Anglers Association successfully casts a cotton ball fly into a hula-hoop during a competition at the group’s annual picnic recently. Our columnist was the first loser. Photo courtesy of Matt Dickerson
It began as just some light-hearted Sunday afternoon relaxation and enjoyment. It ended in the painful crush of defeat. OK, actually the defeat wasn’t that painful or crushing. In fact, it was about as relaxing and light-hearted as the rest of the afternoon. And I’m tempted to say it wasn’t even a defeat. I came in second place. When I pointed that out at the dinner table, my son Mark replied that coming in second is just another way of losing; “The second place finish is just the first loser,” he said. I think he only holds that view because he is a baseball player. The activity was the...
Was that an Old Timers’ Game? A quick look at any recent Toronto Blue Jays box score has “Bichette” leading off, followed by “Biggio,” and then “Guerrero?” Dante Bichette made four all-star teams and retired in 2001; Craig Biggio played 19 years for the Houston Astros and was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2015; Vladimir Guerrero played eight years in nearby Montreal and eight years elsewhere and was elected just last year into the shrine at Cooperstown. Well, these are their boys, playing in the big leagues, all on the same club: Bo Bichette (21 years old), Cavan Biggio (24) and Vlad...

A SMALL CAMPFIRE burns on the gravel shore of Lake Kontrashibuna, where our columnist and his party enjoyed great fishing for lake trout and arctic char, but also spectacular views. Photo by Matthew Dickerson
It was late morning. The fog drifting along the lake surface had mostly burned away, though a few patches still clung to the steep slopes. Replacing the fog was an eerie yellowish haze. The haze filled the bowl formed by the lines of rugged wilderness mountains that enclosed us on three sides. It took me some time — and a few deep breaths through my nostrils, picking up its particular smell — to realize that it was smoke from one (or more) of the numerous wildfires burning across parts of Alaska, the closest of which was only about 40 miles away. I’d been awake since before dawn, and had...


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