Friday, September 29, 2006

The Bear/Woody/Bo/Joe Pa of Alaska

I run two blogs - this one, and an occasional look at the distinct insanity of living in Alaska.

Well, last week up here, the toughest footbal coach in America died after heart surgery.

Here in Alaska, we have no college football, the only state without it. That leaves high school, where the first games are played in mid July and the State title is decided in October.

Like everything in Alaska, it's a little different.

None of that diminishes the memory of Buck Nystrom, whose legacy matches his name.

Coaching in the 40-below-in-November Fairbanks area, first at tiny Eielson and then nearby North Pole (yip, North Pole, a town with almost as many Santa-themed giftshops as oil refineries), Nystrom won two state titles. He remains the only non-Anchorage coach ever to win State (needless to say, Anchorage, with its huge schools, is the giant black hole at the center of Alaska high school sports).

Nystrom died after heart surgery last week, which is ridiculous because anybody who coaches North Pole High school to a state title ain't lackin' heart.

Here's one for ya: When Nystrom won his second title with North Pole, they trounced several Anchorage teams in the playoffs. Afterwards, Nystrom would tell people it was his first real title because when he won it all with Eielson, their path that year hadn't gone through any Anchorage teams.

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