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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

Streams of unconsciousness in the world of sports:

NCAA props: The NCAA’s decision to implement an early signing date for football is a winner.

Coach Nick Hill announced the bulk of SIU’s recruiting class Wednesday. Previously the signing date had been in February.

Hill made the best case for the early date during Wednesday’s presser, noting coaches won’t have to recruit their own players for the next six weeks. Expounding on that statement, Hill said the recruiting class he announced last February was virtually identical to the list he would have released in December.

The early date means coaches can actually relax and take a breath over Christmas. They can actually spend a little time with their families without worrying about calling potential recruits 24/7. Conversely, student-athletes can get on with their lives.

Now, if we could just do something about those video replays.

Best moment of 2017: It’s difficult to nail down a single moment of 2017 – there was a lot to see.

But, if I had to choose one, it would be watching Sam Sikon, then of Carbondale High School, win his third straight 2A shot put championship.

Sikon approaches the shot put with the precision a surgeon prepares for an operation. He sets high standards for himself, and nothing short of reaching those goals is satisfactory.

But, when it became clear Sikon had won this third straight title, a smile, albeit brief, brightened his visage.

He earned the smile. Three years of work went into it.

Watching Sikon win three straight titles was fun. Seeing him smile as the result of the accomplishment, that made three trips to Charleston worthwhile.

Three wishes: If someone gave me three wishes that I could apply to the sports world this is what I’d do.

No. 1 – I’d restore fundamentals to Major League Baseball.

I’m not talking about the really wonky things, like hitting behind the runner, but the basics. It’s a better game when outfielders throw to the correct base, and runners manage to navigate themselves around the bases without incident.

No. 2 – I’d have kids play games simply because they’re fun.

Playgrounds would be full of kids playing baseball, maybe keeping score, maybe not. Every asphalt basketball court in every park would be full of kids playing pick-up games. Adult leagues would flourish.

The reason I started attending sporting events was because I enjoyed playing the games. I’m afraid we’re losing that.

No. 3 – I’d have fans take a deep breath.

I’m as competitive as the next guy. When I played, I did whatever I could to win. But, when the game was over, it was over. They are called games for a reason.

Dedicated fans are wonderful. They are the reason college and professional games exist. However, I’m well past the days of getting an ulcer if my favorite team doesn’t win.

Wishes for 2018: A Merry Christmas as well as a happy, and healthy New Year!

LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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