North-South All-Star Game good for the Grand Strand

When it comes to sports on the Grand Strand, there seems to be more sizzle than steak, and the hope rarely measures up to the hype.

But one of the few and most underrated sporting events in our area is the SCADA North-South All-Star Game, which will be played Saturday at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.

Kickoff is set for noon, but the players have already had a week’s worth of fun and football at the beach. It’s a great reward for the top high school players in the state, but an even bigger treat for locals.

Eighty-eight of the Palmetto State’s finest football players make the annual trek to Myrtle Beach to stay in an oceanfront resort – the first time many of them have had the opportunity to enjoy the beach or spend a week from home.

Yes, they keep busy with daily football duties. It takes a lot of practice and studying to learn a new offense or defense in five days, but there’s also plenty of time of fun before the big game.

Organizers and local businesses team up to show the players the town. Restaurants feed them for free, and some of those big linemen can put away some grub, and attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium show them a good time. It’s all part of the experience.

On Thursday the players got another taste of the full experience, and it wasn’t in the form of food or entertainment. They went Christmas shopping, and not for themselves or loved ones, but for needy children in our area.

Thanks to former Myrtle Beach, Virginia Tech and NFL player Brandon Frye, each player was paired with a child and given $100 gift card to pick out Christmas presents for themselves and their families. Frye, also a North-South game alumnus, has been sponsoring the trip for five years.

Some of the touching scenes, like a child who would rather buy necessities for family members rather than the latest hot toy of the season, leaves a lasting mark on young men who may have grown up in similar situations or who have never come into contact with poverty. It’s a lesson they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

And so are the friendships that are formed between complete strangers, and in some cases, hated rivals. Having only met on opposing sides of the gridiron for four years, they finally get to be teammates on the field and friends back at the hotel once they meet one another with their helmets off.

Then comes the highlight, the game itself. With so much talent on the field at the same time, you are sure to see many of these kids play on Saturdays in the near future, and in some cases even Sundays farther down the line. But even for those who don’t go on to college stardom, the memories and friendships made this week will remain.

From a chamber of commerce perspective, many of those kids return home and tell their parents what a great time they had in Myrtle Beach. Maybe they visit, or maybe he starts a family tradition by bringing his kids back for the summer. You can’t measure the economic impact of this event.

From a football fan’s viewpoint, we get to see some of the top talent in the state showcase their skills in our own back yard. But just as an average human being, the good will generated by hosting this event can’t be measured in dollars or touchdowns. That’s something local sports fans can sink their teeth into.

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