Big-time sporting events seem so much larger than life when we watch them on TV.
Especially in today’s age of high-definition broadcasts, the events seem almost as though they’re being broadcast from another planet, where people are more perfect, colors are more vibrant, fields are more special.
That made seeing hometown athletes Grant and Ross James compete in the Olympics in London this week all the more inspiring.
The James brothers and their U.S. crewmates finished fourth in the men’s eight rowing final Wednesday, just three-tenths of a second from a bronze medal.
Although they were disappointed, they were also proud. And we were proud of their performance.
Seeing people such as Grant and Ross James at the Olympics shows aspiring young people that even kids from little ol’ DeKalb County can succeed at the highest levels of sport – the highest level of anything, really – if they work hard enough and want it bad enough.
Success has less to do with where you’re from than who you are.
Granted, the James brothers weren’t your conventional athletes-make-it-big story. They weren’t star athletes at DeKalb High School, preferring to focus on becoming Eagle Scouts, shooting and playing in the school orchestra, where both played viola.
The 6-foot 5-inch twins only took up rowing in college at the University of Wisconsin. But they both worked at it, and became good enough to compete in the Olympics just weeks shy of their 25th birthday.
Grant James said after his team’s brush with Olympic bronze that he and his brother plan to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Hopefully, they’ll make good on that plan. We’d be inspired to see them on the world stage again.
Big cat: I’m a sucker for a big fish story, and here’s one from Kenny “The Body Piercer” Weinstock, owner of Out on a Whim tattoos and piercing in downtown DeKalb.
Kenny lives in Dixon and was fishing on the Rock River about 2½ miles from the Dixon Dam on Monday night.
“My friend Bill [Law] and I have an agreement, I catch them and he cleans them and eats them,” Kenny wrote me this week.
Kenny was trying to catch a second catfish for his friend so he’d have dinner for two. As night began to fall, Kenny caught enough catfish to have dinner for eight: a 47-inch, 50-plus pound flathead. A fish bigger than most people ever will catch. (Yes, I’m jealous.)
Kenny did the right thing, though: After he spent 30 minutes hauling it in with his Zebco 808 rod and reel, he took a few pictures (like the one above) then hauled it back to the river and released it.
“I’ve waited my lifetime to catch a fish like that, and I’m glad I got to share it with my best friend, Bill,” Kenny said.
Sounds a little like the plot to “The Old Man and the Sea.” Without all that time on a boat or sharks chewing the fish to pieces.
Back to school: The local kiddos will be back in class in the weeks ahead.
Parents, did it seem like this summer would never end, or what?
But apparently I should have been saving up all summer for back-to-school shopping. A survey conducted for the National Retail Federation says that Americans with one or more school-age children will spend $688 on back-to-school supplies, clothes and shoes this year.
I thought that seemed a little high, like they were trying to guilt me into breaking the bank. Certainly, that’s not what we’re spending on our girls, I thought. Geez, just get them a couple of pairs of pants, some Keds and send them off.
Well, my wife says it’s not that simple. Apparently girls are particular about their clothes and shoes.
My girls will be able to get what they need – if not exactly what they want – before their school year begins. Others in the community might not be as fortunate.
That’s why if you can, you should donate to an upcoming school supply drive. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, The Salvation Army is trying to “Cram the SAM” with supplies at the DeKalb Walmart, 2300 Sycamore Ave.
Federated Church in Sycamore also is accepting donations from members ahead of a backpack stuffing event they have planned for this month.
If there are other donation drives open to the public, we’ll be sure to publicize them.
Sycamore golf: Finally, I had a good time Thursday afternoon at the Sycamore Chamber’s annual golf outing at Sycamore Golf Club.
The course is in great shape, especially considering the drought we’re suffering through. The outing, as usual, was full of golfers on a 90-plus-degree afternoon. Almost 150 people got out of the office and onto the course, chamber director Rose Treml said.
There were lots of sponsors to talk to on the tee boxes and other things to distract me from the fact that my short game still needs a lot of work, although not as much as my hula hooping does, as local real estate agent Dorothy Hitzeroth saw.
The outing is the second-biggest fundraiser of the year for the chamber, and not to toot my own horn, but I kicked in a few bucks.
For example, when club pro Kirk Lundbeck’s shot from the par-3 seventh ended up much closer to the hole than the 9-iron shot I skulled off the tee, earning the chamber a quick $5.
“His job is to take your money,” Treml said. “And he does a great job every year.”
Yes. Yes he does.
• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 257, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @DDC_Editor.