(Author’s note: I wrote this column in the mid-1990s for a high school athletic publication entitled Green Light Sports. I thought perhaps the time of year was right for an encore. Here it is with some updates and edits. Go Dukes! Take State!)

For our missive in this issue let’s depart from the norm and talk about the direct impact of sports upon our physical environment. Why not examine the effect of athletics upon the very lay of the land? We’ll title our dissertation, “The Influence of Sports Upon Continental Drainage.”

Perhaps the proper first task should be to discuss the lines along which common thinking flows, the better to debunk these theories later.

The scientific community has maintained for centuries that water does, in fact, run down hill. We here at the Institute for Supposition Based Upon Scant Fact have no argument with our Bunsen burner-toting friends about this … to a point.

We must part company with the Petri dish set, however, when it comes to explaining why, in Nebraska, excess surface water flows - almost always - from west to east. Others less enlightened than ourselves, or those who have given inadequate thought to this phenomena, point out correctly that Nebraska lies between the Rocky Mountains and the sea. The former being much higher than the latter, it is only natural that water would find its way from the high country west of us to the Missouri and Mississippi river basins to our east.

All of this makes sense on the surface of the thing, but we here at the Institute, to no one’s surprise, think there is more to the story. This mountains-to-delta stuff is fine, and may in some small measure even factor into the equation, but being terminally inquisitive we dug deeper. Of course we did.

Of far greater import is that our occasionally-beloved state’s drainage is less a result of where the mountains happen to be or not be, and more a function of the Nebraska High School Activities Association’s habit of staging the majority of high school sports championships in Lincoln and Omaha.

What has happened over time, you see, is that years upon years of March Madness and state track, volleyball and tennis championships have emptied the people - and more importantly their cars - which in many cases are even heavier - from all of western Nebraska and piled them just inside the Iowa border. Worse, these eastward migrations take place in sudden blitzkrieg exits from the hinterlands.

The return, however, is done in fits and starts as first one town then the next, turned away in abject defeat, turns back for home heartbroken. The sheer weight exerted upon the east, then, is profoundly greater on the inward migration than is the piecemeal westward counterpart that inevitably follows. It only makes sense.

Still skeptical? Consider the many Platte River inundations over the years. And what do you suppose stands at the root of these period massive floods? Our exhaustive research here at the Institute proves with scant doubt: The problem traces its roots back in history to the NSAA’s ill-considered decision to move the state football finals to Lincoln.

The situation has been trending down hill (tee-hee) ever since.

Thank goodness state cross country and softball are still in Kearney and Hastings. If they ever transplant them alongside the Missouri waterfowlers from Scottsbluff to Fremont will be setting their decoys in Class 5 rapids.


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