Thirty years ago, I watched the hockey tournament at the third National Sports Festival, held in Syracuse in 1981. I was thrilled to get a stray puck that was deflected into the stands, and get Dave Poulin to sign it for a college friend of mine I later learned was a third cousin. The US Olympic Committee started the NSF as a way of giving America's elite athletes a major event to participate in in non-Olympic years. It lasted until 1985, then morphed into the US Olympic Festival.
While there's not a direct lineage, the State Games of America carries on that tradition. It's a lot more democratic though, which is good for the Mitchell household. Though neither of them are (yet) elite athletes, Bangle and The Other Doctor Mitchell will be competing in their third State Games (both won bronze in San Diego two years ago). Sabers has his sport to participate in; and since the event is in Harrisburg, close to home, I'm participating too. Four Mitchells, three sports!
Getting my assignments last night (I start Friday morning with the pee wee opener and then junior girls) was a bigger deal than I would have let on. After officiating this long, you know your own weaknesses and you have a few doubts about whether you're ready for a big event like this and whether the assigners think you're good enough. That practice on the weekend did most for my confidence than for my legs and getting the e-mail saying I was in was as nearly much of a boost.
Thirty years, a shoulder operation, a career, and a family later, I'm back at the games, and on the other side of the glass. Who would have though that then?