The Press Box For Jan. 10
Every school has one; every community has one, and just about every team has one! It’s that devoted sports fan whose most important function in life is the success of his team. He lives and dies a devoted fan, and nothing can change that. Take away his school or his team, and you take away his life.
He’s the kind of fan who calls off work to attend the local game, or who misses his doctor’s appointment to see his team play. He wears all the colors, even to church. (If there’s no game on Sunday). He knows every stat, every score and every win/loss in every game throughout the past 10 years and beyond.
He remembers every player that even the coaches often forget. He became friends with every one of them, including most of their parents. He becomes a legend in his own right.
Everyone knows him on sight; he’s often allowed on the sidelines, or near the bench. The coaches know him, and he knows them. He can name all the coaches and A.D.’s from years past and seems to have insight on what’s going on that others don’t. If you want to know who the next coach will be, ask him; he normally is one of the first to know.
I’ve seen several in my time, and some are now passed, but they still live on; they spent their whole lives wrapped up in local high school sports, never missing a game, always there to offer their opinion of the game, as well as their – often unorthadox – reason why they lost. Funny thing is, they are often right.
Another fascinating aspect about them is they seldom display bad sportsmanship. They like to get involved in the cheering and all the hoopla. Not the big tailgate guy, just more interested in getting to the game to see the players. Knows all the officials and referees.
Hardly ever do they say anything bad about the opposition, and normally they are very respectful and complimentary. Do you know any of these guys or gals? I’ve probably known seven or eight of them in my time. They are friends of everyone. I was talking to one the other night at a local game, and the subject of poor sportsmanship came up.
He said he was disappointed in the officiating of the game; he felt it was getting a little rough and someone was going to get hurt. I told him I thought the refs were calling a pretty good game. He said, “Okay Eddie, wait and see!” Jokingly, I said, “You’re just upset, because your getting beat.” He just shook his head and walked away, a little irritated.
It wasn’t too long until he proved himself right. A player went down from a wicked elbow to the eye. The player ended up missing the next game as well. I later got a chance to talk again with the die-hard fan. He said, “I told you what was coming.”
“Well it was your player, and he’s starting to get quite the reputation,” I answered. “I don’t care what team he’s on he can’t keep doing that, and I bet you it will come back to haunt him,” the fan said.
That’s the kind of sports fans these guys are. They love their teams, their players, and they love their communities and schools. However, they seem to have a great respect for the overall good of the game. They are serious; they don’t like problems. They are no-nonsense guys, and I think they get a lot of that from being around the coaches, and that wears off on them.
I remember one from Paden City. Bishop Donahue had a great one, and Magnolia’s is one of the best. You all know who I mean. God love them all! They add so much to local sports.
With all this cold weather and snow, there have been a lot of game cancellations. Hopefully things clear up some, and we can get back on track. It’s always hard to reschedule games, especially when there are multiple cancellations.
If I had to pick one concept, which most closely mirrors to sportsmanship, it would be respect. Respecting your opponent, your team, coaches, officials, and the game, is paramount to good sportsmanship. The concept of respecting individuals is easily understood. This is where the Golden Rule comes in – treating others as you would want to be treated.
No matter how much we would like to, we can’t win at everything every time. So we need to learn to deal with it. After a hard fought game in which everything was left on the field of play, in a losing effort, it can be very difficult to look your opponents in the eye and tell them “good game” or “good job.” But this is what is often asked of athletes of all ages. Very few wins and losses are remembered. There are many aspects of sports that are beyond our control (refs’ calls, lucky plays/shots, injuries), so we often have to just accept what it is and move on.
It is also important to acknowledge the winner. It may be difficult, but failing to acknowledge your competitor’s accomplishment is disrespectful. Sulking away shows a self-centeredness and lack of discipline. Being able to control your emotions in difficult moments are a mark of strength and self-control. Finally, when you lose, keep your head up. If you gave it your best shot, you should feel pride about your effort, not shame over disappointing results or execution. Remember it’s just a game.
We have all heard the truisms “life’s tough” and “life’s not fair.” Like life, sports are tough and not always fair. Therefore, sports can be a wonderful training ground for life’s challenges. Just like we all win some and lose some in sports, we also deal with plenty of successes and failures in our lives.
Many great players have lost the respect of teammates and competitors because they couldn’t control their own emotions. And just like the die-hard fan said, it will come back and bite you in the end. So, as old Barney Fife used to say, “Nip it in the bud.” Let’s just get a grip on it now before it escalates into something big.
After trying several of my reliable sources, to secure a couple passes to the Mountaineers game on Saturday versus Oklahoma, with no success. I had almost given up and decided it would be a night on the couch with chips/salsa and a cold drink. Considering the weather and all, that didn’t really sound to bad. However, about 11 a.m. Saturday morning, one of my sources came through with two tickets waiting at the will-call Gold Gate. I had a parking pass for the Gold Lot, so all was set. I had plans early in the week for four people, but because of the nature of the game number six versus number seven, it didn’t pan out.
The game was a sell-out and tickets were hard to come by. I was told they are going to be even harder to get. So I might have to dig a little deeper into my bag of tricks or just stay home. Folks, the cold weather wasn’t anything compared to when the Mountaineers, led by the brillient coaching of Coach Bob Huggins, turned on the heat against the nation’s leading scorer. Trae Young couldn’t fight off the pressure of Carter and company, even when he was getting all the touch calls his way. The Mountaineer’s defense forced him to take some bad shots and swiped several of his passes. In all, he had nine turnovers.
It was one of those games that you don’t get to see very often. An undersized front line that won the rebounding battle, blocked more shots and scored. Foul trouble was a concern from the beginning, and WVU ended with four starters with four fouls but their depth and bench play was second to none. It was an absolute clinic on how pressure defense can win games. I’ve talked a lot about shooting, free throws, and all other elements of basketball but pressure against the opposition will destroy them.
Coach Huggins is a general (a Four Star general) when it comes to basketball, and I said this last year in a column… he is, without a doubt, the finest coach in college basketball. He not only gets the best out of his talent, but he somehow drags more than the best from them. He knows how to work the refs even when he’s on the wrong end of many calls. He’ll talk to them, and if need arises, he’ll blast them. I think, although I don’t know, he probably coaches that way as well. It’s going to get even better with the return of Esa Ahmed, a premier player. Playing time will become even more competitive, and the depth of the Mountaineers may be what will separate them from everyone else.
I got to talk with Coach Huggins a little bit after the game and He said, “You know what Ed, I thought we could beat them the whole time.” I felt a little foolish because I had said I was a little worried about their inside game and speed. But there you have it, once again confidence and a positive attitude brings a lot to the table. email@example.com