Rejoice in victory, be gracious in defeat

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2006

I’m not as dumb as I look.

That was among my dad’s favorite sayings….one I’ve used on occasion myself.

Now is one of those times.

I read, with great interest, in our Tuesday edition as Sports Editor Thadd White, after staring into his gridiron crystal ball, made some bold predictions concerning the upcoming 2006 high school football season.

With nerves of steel, Thadd made his predictions for each of our seven football-playing high schools in the Roanoke-Chowan area as they prepare to kick-off the ’06 campaign.

As I said before, I’m not as dumb as I look.

There’s no way I would become involved in making such predictions. Sure, I participate annually in our Pigskin Prognosticators poll (which, by the way, debuts for this year in today’s edition). But while I’ll have a few players, coaches or fans questioned my mental capacity based upon my picks for that week, one has to keep in mind that there are 11 regular season playing dates, meaning I have ample opportunity to judge a team’s strengths and weaknesses and thusly make my selections.

To boil the entire year down in wins and losses even before the first penalty flag of the season is thrown by Charles Freeman is, at best, borderline insanity.

However, I will defend my journalistic comrade in arms by saying that when I was sports editor of this publication, I use to do the same exact thing….attempting to figure out what type of seasons our teams would have before the ball was placed on the tee and booted for the first time.

Now a bit older and wiser, I’ll stick to what I do the best…watch the game, keep stats, take a few photos and write a few football stories. But that doesn’t mean I’m bored with the sport. High school football remains my all-time favorite sport.

There’s still something special about Friday nights in the late summer months and into the early fall. Maybe it’s because that football is a sport that holds contests just one time per week. Nothing against basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, tennis or volleyball, but those athletes compete several times per week for an entire season. After a while, those sports become watered down as far as the excitement level and pre-game hype is concerned.

Playing just once a week in football is also unique in another fashion. For example, a team gets roughed-up pretty bad on the scoreboard. The fans have an entire week to play armchair quarterback and figure out the best way for their team to bounce back the next week. The coaching staff and players are also afforded that luxury, studying game film and making adjustments which will make them more competitive against their next opponent.

In my 30-plus years of covering high school football, I’ve seen teams take such a butt-whipping that it hurt me to sit down, but by the very next week they’ve put that loss out of their minds and go out and thoroughly spank their foes.

High school football, like all prep sports, is also special in the sense that these young men put it all on the line for nothing more than pride in their school colors. Meanwhile, their coaches, at least the ones I know of here in the local area, are paid very little in the way of a supplement. But if you ask any football coach worth his weight in goal posts why they spend such long hours preparing their team for battle, the majority will tell you it isn’t about the money, but rather for helping to shape and mold a young life for a much bigger contest down the road – the game of life.

You don’t have to be deaf, dumb or blind not to hear, understand or see the important roles our high school coaches play in preparing young people for the future. The simple fundamentals they teach on the field or court serve as the foundation these young people will build upon as they enter the real world.

Tomorrow (Friday) night, those youngsters will set out on a mission to take what they’ve learned on the practice field and attempt to out hustle, outplay and outscore their opponent. Please remember they are just kids playing a game. Please remember that they, like their coaches, are human and prone to make mistakes. Rejoice in their victories and be gracious in defeat. In other words, support your team and coaching staff no matter the outcome.

Good luck to all of our local high school and middle school athletic teams as the 2006-07 academic year begins.