One of the endearing qualities about sports is that sometimes, Jupiter aligns with Mars. Then either peace guides the planets, or all hell breaks loose. It could go either way.
You never know when you might get one of those early-season games in Chicago when the weather turns blissfully warm, and the wind blows blissfully out, instead of brutally in, with daggers. You never know when Mike Schmidt and Dave Kingman might show up with that sinister look in their eyes.
On May 17, 1979, it was blissfully warm at Wrigley Field. The wind was blowing blissfully out toward Lake Michigan, at 18 mph. Jupiter had aligned with Mars. The sweet spot on Schmidt’s Adirondack Big Stick also had aligned with Bruce Sutter’s split-finger fastball. And whatever sort of batting practice cheese Dennis Lamp could muster.
Schmidt hit two homers for the Phillies. It seemed like five. Bob Boone, Garry Maddox and Randy Lerch hit the others. Lerch was a pitcher. When Jupiter aligns with Mars, even pitchers are to be feared.
Kingman went deep not one time, not two times, but three times. The wrath of Kong was palpable. Bill Buckner, Jerry Martin and Steve Ontiveros also homered for the Cubs. In 2,193 major league at-bats, Steve Ontiveros hit 24 home runs. When Jupiter aligns with Mars, even light-hitting third basemen are to be feared.
Philadelphia scored 23 runs. Chicago scored 22.
That game is still the measuring stick I use when something remarkable happens in sports, such as the week that was in high school football.
It took a minimum of 21 points to win. The maximum had to be deduced with variometers and finely tuned spectroscopes. Las Vegas scored 35 points. Cimarron-Memorial scored 37. The Meadows scored 38. Arbor View scored 49. Virgin Valley scored 52. Rancho scored 53. Agassi Prep scored 58 (Laughlin, Agassi Prep’s opponent, scored none). Spring Valley scored 58. Moapa Valley scored 59. Mountain View scored 60. Bishop Gorman and Canyon Springs scored 63. Not together. Each.
Bonanza scored 44 points. And lost by 33. Because Desert Oasis scored 77.
I went to a high school football game, and the Penn Relays broke out.
Desert Oasis and Bonanza combined for 121 points in a game that lasted only 48 minutes. That’s 2.52 points per minute. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot. Seventeen touchdowns were scored. That does sound like a lot.
There was scoring on the first play of the game and scoring on the last play of the game. There was scoring on offense, scoring on defense, scoring on special teams. There was even scoring under the bleachers, although I’m not namin’ names. Each team returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Desert Oasis returned an interception for a touchdown. From the next county, 103 yards away. Bonanza even kicked a field goal. There was talk of throwing it back. You don’t keep minnows when the big fish are biting.
Usually when a team puts up 77 points, the coach has to defend running up the score. Faron Seibel, the Desert Oasis coach, believed he needed that many to win. Even against a Bonanza team that had lost 74-28 to Durango the week before. He said it was just one of those nights when one team was clicking on all cylinders and the other team was clicking on most cylinders.
“The weirdest part was, you go in halftime up by 20 and you’re worried about not being far enough ahead,” he said.
In 28 years of coaching, Seibel never had seen anything like it.
Blame it on the urban sprawl that has widened the gap between the haves and have-nots. Blame it on a quirk in the schedule that had them lining up against each other. Blame it, too, on the evolution of the game. Sterling Sprau, the Bonanza quarterback, completed 35 of 53 passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns against Desert Oasis. Those were career numbers for quarterbacks of my generation, when we ran the option and pitched to Billy Sims.
Blame it on the wind blowing out. This Friday, the wind might blow out again. Desert Oasis, fresh off its 77-point explosion, will travel to Spring Valley, fresh off its 58-point explosion.
But I’m predicting a low-scoring game. An astrology pal told me that since Schmidt and Kingman retired, Jupiter aligns with Mars only once every 27 months.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352.