In the spring of 1997, Anna Fabatz became the first Butte High athlete to earn her 12th varsity letter.
Before heading to a stellar career on the basketball court at MSU-Northern in Havre, Fabatz lettered four times each in volleyball, basketball and track at Butte High.
Fabatz’s résumé, which included a role on Butte High’s 1994 state championship volleyball team, made her a slam dunk nominee for the Butte Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Natalee Faupel and Ally Cleverly joined Fabatz in the 12-letter club in recent years, Faupel in 2013 and Cleverly in 2019. Faupel went on to an All-American career playing basketball at Northern, while Cleverly went to Carroll College to play basketball and soccer.
No male athlete has ever reached that level at Butte High.
Scott Paffhausen, a true historian of all things Butte High, pointed out that we would probably have more 12-letter winners (boys and girls) if Butte High was always a four-year school, and he is, as usual, probably right.
Freshmen attended East Junior High School and West Junior High School until the late 1980s.
Liza (Merrifield) Dennehy might have taken home more than 12 letters. She lettered in two sports in one season.
If the 2020 high school track season happens — and that seems like a giant “if” right now — Butte High will have one more athlete with 12 letters.
Senior Tommy Mellott has been on track to become the first Butte High boy to reach that milestone.
If this coronavirus lockdown is lifted in time, Mellott would definitely earn that at 12th letter. Mellott, who lettered in track with ease as a freshman, sophomore and junior, could probably moonwalk his way to another one.
Mellott also letter all four seasons at Butte High in football and basketball, joining a distinctive group that could hold its reunion meetings in a broom closet.
Actually, he might be the only member of that club.
Twelve letters in a high school career is a major accomplishment. At a Class AA school, one or two of those is a pretty big deal.
Of course, Mellott’s career will never be measured by the amount of varsity letters he collected at Butte High School. His career was so much more than that.
The quarterback of the 2019 Bulldogs will go down as one of the greatest Bulldogs of all time. And, if some future Bulldog boy ever becomes the first to win 12 letters at Butte High, it will always come with a caveat.
Tommy Mellott would have if …
Some of us are still holding out hope that the virus will go away in time for us to get in a few warm-up track meets before the state meets — as well as the softball and tennis tournaments — on Memorial Day weekend.
Right now, though, that seems about as likely as Lloyd Christmas hooking up with Mary Swanson.
“Wait a minute. What was all that ‘one in a million’ talk?”
Since the state basketball tournaments were halted after the semifinals on March 13, we have been flooded with questions about when the spring season will begin. We have been asked about Opening Day of Major League Baseball.
Right now, I am just hoping we get to have a football season.
As bad as this spring has been stinking, imagine how bad the fall will be if sports are still shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is a possibility that seems more and more likely with each passing day.
I remember looking at Butte High and Butte Central football records and seeing the 1918 season was wiped out by the flu pandemic. Never would we see that happen, I thought.
Nobody is thinking that way anymore, and that is why we must all stay at home as much as possible.
The 2020 football season — as well as the lives of millions of people — just might depend on that.
Clearly, too many people around the country and the world have apparently not gotten that message. Maybe if risking many lives, including their own lives and the lives of their loved ones, will not make people follow the orders of governors around the country, perhaps the threat to sports will.
Texas journalist Evan Smith suggested Gov. Greg Abbott threaten to cancel college football in the state if his Texans do not obey a 21-day quarantine.
— Evan Smith (@evanasmith) March 27, 2020
While governors might lack the actual authority to make such a statement, that very declaration would still be filled with truth.
If we do not stay home and follow the social distancing guidelines, we very well could lose football season. And volleyball season. And soccer season.
Sure, most people seem to be playing along, even if losing their job gave them no choice but to spend more time at home.
But it just takes one trip to the grocery store to see that enough people are not taking the threat seriously enough. You might be able to give the person in front of you 6 feet of space in the line to check out at Safeway. But good luck getting the same courtesy from the person behind you.
It only takes a few to ruin it for the rest of us.
Next time, maybe tell the woman behind you to back off because you would like to watch the Bobcats beat the Grizzlies for the fifth straight time this November.
Or, maybe the other way around.
Stay at home when you can. When you cannot, do your best to keep your distance and stop the spread of this nasty virus.
Stay away from the beach. Do not meet with a bunch of friends in the Civic Center parking lot.
If you will not follow these directions for your parents or grandparents, kids with asthma or cancer survivors, do it for our collective sanity.
Do it so we can hang on to the giant “if” when talking about the softball, tennis, track and Tommy Mellott’s 12th letter.
Keep your distance now so we can have a football season in the fall.
— Bill Foley, who fell considerably short of 12 varsity letters, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. He will try to write more frequently during the coronavirus lockdown. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.