• December 20, 2014

Heights baseball program losing model coach in Cunningham

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Posted: Friday, June 27, 2014 4:30 am

Random musings as every team from the Dallas Mavericks to the Dallas Cowboys makes its pitch to LeBron James.

As I took in Harker Heights’ football practices on multiple occasions this spring, there was a question that always crossed my mind, then slipped it, by the time I got to my interviews.

On Monday, as I was working on our All-Area Baseball section — coming out Sunday, by the way — I finally got my answer.

Heights head baseball coach Glenn Cunningham, also an assistant football coach, was retiring after a 30-year coaching career that began and ended in Killeen ISD.

That was why Cunningham wasn’t coaching at the Knights’ football practices as I had become accustomed to seeing last fall.

Cunningham, of course, didn’t announce his retirement to me, but rather mentioned it in passing Monday — in between talking up one of his players who will be featured on the All-Area team and searching for the contact info to help me reach that player.

That part of Cunningham — his constant willingness to help and his focus on his players’ best interests — will certainly be missed.

Cunningham has compiled quite the list of accomplishments in his coaching career. And yet, even in a ceremony this past season celebrating one of his biggest ones, 500 career wins, Cunningham deflected the credit to the people who have surrounded him the entire way.

I’ve only been covering Heights since September, but coaches like Cunningham — and no, he isn’t the only one at Heights — are the reason it already has been an enjoyable experience.

One of my buddies, a die-hard Arsenal fan and soccer fan in general, and I often debate what it will take for soccer to become nearly as popular in America as it is in the rest of the world.

After watching the United States’ draw against Portugal on Sunday — the final match of group play against Germany hasn’t happened as I write this — I believe I have the answer.

On Twitter, I’ve seen many fans grow like myself as stars like Lionel Messi and upstart teams like Costa Rica continue to make this World Cup a memorable one.

But no team has captured Americans’ hearts like their own, as the U.S. and its surprising competitiveness in the “group of death” have brought unprecedented eyes to the sport.

The draw against Portugal was the most watched U.S. soccer match ever with 18.22 million viewers — the most viewers for an ESPN broadcast that wasn’t an NFL or college football telecast.

Yet not even an hour after Portugal tied the match on the last kick of the game — a beautiful cross from Cristiano Ronaldo that was headed in for the tying goal — many on my Twitter timeline had turned on the sport, expressing disdain for ties and lamenting the wait for the “real” football season to start.

The tweet that caught my eye said soccer is boring when the U.S. isn’t playing.

Well, there is the answer my friend and I have long sought.

It seems there must be an American rooting interest — a great team or a Ronaldo-type talent playing for Team USA — for the sport to truly matter domestically.

Now, the question is, how far away is that from becoming a reality?

Of course, I don’t know that soccer fans care whether the sport is loved universally.

But it certainly makes you wonder when Americans throw themselves into the sport the way they did in 2010 and have in 2014 only to look past it the entire time in between.

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