Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 16, 2006, Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch

Fans revel in athletic milestones

By Matt Kane

Something happens when an athlete nears a personal milestone. I saw it Jan. 9 at the Lester Prairie gym as I covered Brianna Radtke’s quest for her 1,000th point.

Fans on the Lester Prairie end of the grandstands sitting cheek-to-cheek and those who preferred to stand rather than sit with the Bethany Academy fans were into the game even before it started.

As the crowd filtered in during warm-ups I’m sure the first discussions with neighbors had to do with the girl wearing the maroon No. 15 jersey.

In the last row a fan held up a homemade banner reading “Brianna is going for 1000.” But nobody needed a sign to tell them what was going on.

Everybody from the score keeper to the athletic director were eagerly anticipating Radtke’s 17th point of the night.

Every time Radtke touched the ball on the offensive end of the court, the gymnasium seemed to loose a little air as the crowd held its breath in hopes she would come two, maybe three, or even just one point closer to 1,000.

And then it happened in typical Brianna Radtke fashion.

With a minute to play in the first half, Radtke brought the crowd to its feet when she stole the ball at mid-court and out-raced a Bethany opponent for a two-point lay-up, giving her exactly 1,000 points.

With the basket, the sign-waving fan changed her message to “Bri Radtke gets 1,000.”

It’s funny how the threat on certain statistical numbers in sports brings a slightly different feeling to the arena.

Dassel-Cokato wrestler Kurt Salmen felt it in a foreign place Dec. 10 when he was given a standing ovation by complete strangers after picking up his 100th win in a tournament at Minneapolis Edison High School.

Being just an average athlete, myself, I have never experienced the feeling of approaching a milestone from the athlete’s perspective, but I have experienced it as a fan.

I remember the feeling every time Paul Molitor stepped to the plate in September of 1996. Having a season ticket at the time, I was in attendance for a number of his 225 hits that season but he could only get to 2,998 by Sept. 15, the final game of the home stand with Seattle.

Twins fans watched on their televisions as Molitor reached the mark the next night on a triple in Kansas City, but the true feeling of something special only comes when seeing it in person.

Just a year earlier I sat in the lower left field stands at the Metrodome only to rise to my feet every time Eddie Murray stepped to the plate. It didn’t matter Murray was wearing a visiting Cleveland Indians uniform, everyone in attendance wanted to see him connect on hit No. 3,000. And, finally, Twins pitcher Mike Trombley complied, serving up a single to right field.

I don’t know how my mother sitting next to me felt about the feat, but goose bumps covered my body as the crowd recognized Murray for his accomplishment.

I do know, though, how the 107,000 other fans felt Oct. 27, 2001, the day I saw Joe Paterno win his then record 324th NCAA Division I football game with Penn State’s come from behind, 29-27, win over Ohio State.

As the comeback, which started with the Nittany Lions down 27-9, ensued, the intensity of each play was magnified until the final buzzer sounded. The emotion of the crowd towards Paterno carried on through the postgame ceremony and dripped towards the field with each humble tear of joy the coach shed.

When recognizing these athletes for their accomplishments, it is equally important to think about how they got to that point.

I’m sure Molitor, Murray, and Paterno would tell us they couldn’t have done it without help.

“It means a lot, but, of course, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Radtke said following her big game.

And she let them all know it in personal letters she passed to each of them.

We, as fans, thank athletes like Radtke for putting us on the edge of our seats.

Maybe the feeling spectators get as a landmark is being approached by an athlete is in fact the definition as to why records are made to be broken in the first place.

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