Where is the love?

I really hope that headline got you singing the 2003 smash Black Eyed Peas hit. Man, has Justin Timberlake ever not scorched every piece of music his beautiful voice has touched?

Unfortunately, this column isn’t about early-2000s pop singles.

No, this column is about the depleted crowds at local sporting events.

Sheridan County prides itself on its sense of community. Citizens support local businesses; they take every chance they get to tell the tales of the generations of family members who have called Sheridan home.

But when it comes to athletics — at all levels — the support dissipates.

Now, it’s probably unfair to lump the entire community into this category. There are plenty of people who attend sporting events and people who have been doing so for decades — diehards and super fans.

Still, the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome was only a third full — 3,000 over capacity by Sean Spicer’s estimate — when the Generals took on Casper College earlier this month.

On Jan. 14 — the same day SC took on Casper — the Sheridan High School boys basketball team took on Natrona County in what was its first home game of the season, more than a month after the season began. The attendance was lackluster, just as it was the night before for the Lady Broncs season opener.

Saturday, the Tongue River Eagles traveled to Big Horn High School for the always-heated cross-county rivalry, and Big Horn head coach Ryan Alley said the crowd “wasn’t bad.”

If there is one game the gym at BHHS should be pretty full, it’s the one that best supports travel for the opposing fan base. It’s not like the Big Horn gym is AT&T Stadium; it doesn’t take 15 counties to fill.

I appreciate Alley’s glass-half-full mentality, but “wasn’t bad,” is the best we can do? That’s all we’re shooting for, here?

Alley made a good point, though, that the Rams’ indoor track team was at a meet in Gillette, taking 40 students who would normally attend the basketball games away from town. The same happened at Sheridan during the Natrona game, and students weren’t back on campus when the Generals took on Casper.

All of that absolutely contributes to smaller student sections. But student sections take up about a fourth of bleacher space at each of those gyms.

Maybe I’m a passionate sports fan who spent the first 24 years of my life in the heart of Indiana, where high school basketball is king and teams play in gyms that hold 9,000 people.

But, to utilize another political reference, size shouldn’t matter. We should be focused on watching some solid basketball — or all sports, for that matter — played by kids who bust their butts every day of the week for nearly half the year.

There are three high school teams in Sheridan County featuring kids who played in or won a state championship in the fall. The athleticism is there.

A kid from Sheridan College is now scoring 8 points per game at Florida State, a team that could easily be ranked in the top 3 in the nation next week. The roster features Division I athletes every year. The athleticism is there.

There are track stars, soccer players and state champions. There are basketball players, and there are good kids playing for good coaches who are all a part of a good community.

I’ve always looked at sporting events as a party, a chance to hang out with your friends, neighbors, parents and grandparents, scarf down a tray of nachos and watch some hoops. Cheer on your classmates, your siblings, your sons and daughters or the sons and daughters of the guy who cleans your teeth or delivers your mail.

We all know each other in this town. That’s what makes it so great.

Hitting the gym for a wrestling meet or a basketball game, or hitting the junior high for a swim meet, these are easy ways for us to tighten that bond that holds Sheridan together.

Let’s get it started. Let’s get it started, in here.

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Mike Pruden

Mike moved to Sheridan from Indianapolis, Indiana. Family and his passion for sports brought Mike to the Cowboy State, where he began working as the sports editor for the Sheridan Press in June of 2014.

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Copyright © 2015 The Sheridan Press or Sheridan Newspapers, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 The Sheridan Press or Sheridan Newspapers, Inc..