FALL CREEK — Day is turning to night in Fall Creek, a proud town nestled south of Eau Claire on Highway 12.
It’s momentarily quiet, only because there’s a brief gap between fall and winter sports for the school district.
Reminders of where you are and who you root for litter across the village of 1,300 people.
There aren’t many corners without some form of a green Cricket popping up, whether it’s a banner on a streetlight, an old football helmet in a restaurant window or bumper sticker on seemingly every vehicle.
And right in the middle resides the man who is as much responsible as anyone for keeping the connections between the village and its beloved athletic department.
Dave Strasburg, on a rare night where he’s not at a Crickets event, studies his computer screen at the “Fall Creek Sports History” headquarters, A.K.A. his living room.
A 1985 graduate of the school and statistician for Fall Creek’s glorious double-gold girls and boys basketball teams that won state titles, Strasburg has spreadsheet upon spreadsheet called up to his desktop.
“You want to see our girls’ all-time record against Cornell? Here it is,” he said, noting that it has been a while since the Crickets and Chiefs last played.
As much a permanent fixture in the public library as his own home, Strasburg has dedicated his free time to chronicling the rich history of Crickets athletics.
It started on a whim. In August of 1985, he was talking with elderly fans throughout the community when the conversation shifted to speculation about all-time records and old statistics.
A mission was born — find out every little detail he could about past teams and do anything in his power to preserve the school’s athletic history.
He’s spent a remarkable deal of time devouring through microfilms of old newspaper clippings that have culminated into a tale few school districts can tell.
“I don’t think you’ll find anything else around the state,” longtime Crickets boys basketball coach Rick Storlie said. “The time and effort the puts into the history of athletics in Fall Creek, … I think it means a lot to the community and us coaches as far as carrying on the tradition of the Crickets family.”
Strasburg added on to his archiving duties when he became the clock operator for the Crickets girls team in 1996, the same year he was hired as the public address announcer for football games. He then took over clock operator duties for boys hoops in 2007. To no surprise, he holds all three of these posts to this day while essentially serving as a media liaison for other sports.
Tonight, Strasburg, who has a third shift job that allows him to make all the competitions, will work his 500th game when the girls basketball team takes on Altoona.
No sign of slowing down anytime soon. It’s a way of life.
“I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. it’s just not my thing,” Strasburg said. “I relax in a gym. At a game.”
During his tenure, Strasburg has missed just three games. He had a work function once for football and was out of town on vacation once each for boys and girls basketball.
Otherwise, every cold winter night or crisp fall evening in Fall Creek, Strasburg has been there.
On nights the Crickets aren’t playing hoops or football, he’s usually at a cross country course, hockey rink, baseball diamond or whatever other surface a team from Fall Creek is playing. He’s got an Excel document with every athletic event of the school year so he can begin plotting his journeys while leaving enough wiggle room to get 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift on time.
“It doesn’t matter what the athletic event is or other events, Dave is there,” Storlie said. “I think he’s a tremendous promoter of Fall Creek and Cricket athletics, obviously.
“Without Dave there, it would be a shock to my system, seriously. You just expect him there and that he’s going to be a fixture at the games and be a voice of the Crickets.”
Having a presence everywhere makes him feel the identity of a team. And that’s what he is preserving. The story of why a group performed the way it did.
On the opposite wall of his computer screen in his home office is one of his favorite possessions.
Strasburg compiled a photo poster of every Crickets team that has raised a trophy at a state tournament. If you know anything about Fall Creek athletics, which maybe you do thanks to Strasburg’s efforts, you know that’s a crowded poster.
To no surprise, he can easily recall moments that lead to each “wall of champions” honoree.
He’s got old clips of buzzer beaters in tournament games and a story behind each photo.
And Strasburg, who worked for a few Crickets state runs as a sports videographer for WQOW 18, can even tell you which media members covered playoff games 30 years ago.
“His memory, he refers to things back in the state championship game and names and statistics and everything, it’s incredible,” former Fall Creek football coach Mike Johnson said.
But Strasburg’s enthusiasm for chronicling seasons has no requisite. He, along with editors who help make his operation go, is diligently archiving memories for teams regardless of sport or standings.
“You look at all the sports, I like the ones you don’t go to or haven’t been in a while,” said Strasburg, who also works JV and middle school sporting events.
One such instance happened last winter, when the ECA Stars girls hockey team added Fall Creek to its co-op. Strasburg went inside Hobbs Ice Center for the first time in 30 years to take photos and keep records of a season that would produce another photo on his wall.
Crickets Paige Rupert and Kalie Gruhlke were on the ice when the Stars raised a state championship trophy March 3 at the Alliant Energy Center.
You bet the duo made it up on the poster not long after.
“People look at the gold ball, but they don’t know the story,” Strasburg said. “You have a picture, and you say, ‘Hey I remember that game,’ or, ‘Hey, I remember that.’”
Any conversation with Strasburg is like talking to a history book.
He can recite any name that has ever been on a Fall Creek roster. He can recall the weather at the 1989 state baseball tournament, a torrential downpour. He can recall diction in the referendum in the late 90s that put the Crickets on the road for more than 20 straight games, which of course ended with a state title and wall of fame moment.
You get lost in time learning little details and people that is the heartbeat of that community.
Fall Creek is a proud village with rich history in athletics.
It’s got the ultimate archiver to preserve it.
“He’s been such an asset to all the programs,” Johnson said. “It makes it pretty special at the high school level that that much information is held on to. It’s a great way for our Fall Creek community to stay connected.”