The remarkable story continues of the Barrow High football team. The Wiz first told you about Barrow's plans to start a team last July. Considering there are no roads into Barrow, located 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and the nearest opponent was 577 miles away, this appeared to be an impossible task.
But play they did. Six games, including one at Sitka, which is 1,153 miles away, about the distance between Dallas and San Diego. The Whalers finished 1-5 and their first game was chronicled by ESPN's Wayne Drehs in a two-part multimedia presentation.
Jacksonville-area accountant Cathy Parker saw the ESPN report and was so inspired by it, she started a movement to replace Barrow's gravel field next to the Arctic Ocean with artificial turf. Her website is Project Alaska Turf.
Parker's fundraising effort has been so successful that the Barrow team is about to embark on a training camp tour of the Lower 48, beginning in Florida. There also will be stops in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. The cost to the Barrow school district? Nothing. It's all paid for by Project Alaska Turf, which expects to surpass the original $500,000 goal.
Now other Inupiat villages across Alaska's North Slope have football fever. Several eight-man teams are springing up, including one in Atqasuk where players have been going through "spring" drills in snow and 20-below temperatures.
But not everybody is pleased. Many North Slope residents are angry, saying money spent on football should have gone to books, teachers and programs that reached more students. Even in Barrow, a petition has been circulating demanding that football be stopped. According to Alex deMarban of the Anchorage Daily News, 120 residents have signed the petition.
Thanks to reader John for his eagle eyes on Alaska.