From Left Field

    Steve Barker wasn't really Steve Barker. The longtime Decatur wrecker service operator would give you this gruff, hard, profane exterior. If you met him for the first time, you'd probably walk away muttering something about a crabby jerk.
    But underneath all that hard exterior was a remarkably softer human being. A guy truly loved by many, someone being sorely missed since his passing last week.
    The long lines for viewing at the funeral home said a lot about the true Steve Barker. So, too, does the emptiness being felt by many at Richards restaurant, a place near his wrecker service where Barker became more than just a regular.
    "We're really going to miss him around here," said Richards manager Andy Gay. "He was more than a good customer; he was a good friend."
    So much so that the Richards workers established their own memorial to Steve.
    "The morning after he passed, I came in and I knew Louie was upset. She had served him so many years. We thought about moving the table he always sat at, but didn't. Then someone came in and sat there and I said, "Naw, this isn't right.' So we moved it, put a coffee cup and spoon on it, so no one else would sit there.
    "I'll probably put it back tomorrow (the day after the funeral)."
    How long had Barker been coming in? "Well, the 30 or so years Louie has been working here," Gay replied.
    The Richards manager agreed that the rough exterior wasn't the true Steve Barker. "Oh, no; he wasn't like that at all.  Like the time a customer, a big guy, was giving Louie a bad time. Steve just got up and walked over to her, said, 'Louie, you all right?" She said sure and the guy shut up.
    "Like I said, he was more than a good customer; he was a good friend."

Hoops and,
    If they play for three or four months to decide who finishes first and wins the league championship, someone asked, then why do they turn right around and have a league tournament with the same teams?
    The answer: m-o-n-e-y. Plain and simple.
    IU won the Big Ten title last Sunday — in one more unbelievably exciting Big Ten game — but any one of several teams could win the tournament crown. So then you would have IU as regular season champ and so-and-so as tourney champ — and they both go to the post-season NCAA tournament, anyway. Make sense?
    (Ooops, sorry, TV; we're supposed to call it The Big Dance!)
    Where the nasty rub comes in, though, is in a conference like the Horizon, where Valpo hung on to beat Wright State on Tuesday night to win the tournament title. If, however, Wright State would have pulled the upset — and it nearly did — only Wright St. with a mediocre recorded would have received an NCAA berth. And Valpo would have been left hugging the regular season trophy it won and wondering what that 15-week season was all  about.
    Oh, well, at least everyone is making money — lots of money! — right? Oh, that's right; not the ones providing the entertainment. They're student-athletes. Forgot.

Call her frustrated
    The woman on the other end of the telephone was obviously frustrated. She suggested that "maybe if you put something in the paper," it would stop. But, of course, she knew better.
    Vehicles are tearing up the grassy areas in the back portion of Hanna-Nuttman Park, a lovely place which can be a great place for family picnics and the like. "It's just a shame what they do back there," she said.
    To make matters worse, our caller was in the back part one day "and someone came along and dumped four kittens back there. Just dumped 'em out. We tried to catch (the kittens) but couldn't. That's awful," she said.
    No disagreement here.