There are a lot of great things about high school sports, and I have the pleasure of witnessing them as part of my job. It seems to me that all of the best things about athletic competition -- like athletes pushing themselves to the limit or individuals and teams overcoming adversity -- are amplified at the high school level because it's often at that age where the life lessons of sports will resonate the most.
The worst thing about high school sports, in my opinion, is when people lose perspective -- especially adults. It is, after all, just a game, a school-sponsored one at that. It's great to see that Western New York participants, coaches and fans don't get too carried away -- most of the time.
Today my Prep Talk column in the paper discussed how great the action was at the Section VI soccer championships on Saturday, but also how ridiculous the behavior of some adults was.
While I'm at it - hey, adult fans and parents out there: have some faith in the people running the events you're attending.
* Clarence fans weren't blameless at Saturday's Class AA boys soccer game. At one point a player went down with an injury near sideline by the teams' benches. While there was a short break as the player was attended to, the referee never decided to stop the clock, so he never signaled to the press box to do so. But with Clarence trailing, 2-0, and the time ticking away, adults in the stands started yelling "STOP THE CLOCK!!!" at the press box with a fervor that should be reserved for actual real-life emergencies. In one outstanding example of loss of perspective, one Clarence adult began to not only yell but to pound on the side of the press box with his fist.
* At Monday night's outstanding sectional championships in girls volleyball, an announcement was made that there would be no flash photography by spectators. A colleague of mine at The News, who has been using a flash all season long at volleyball matches (because it's necessary to produce pictures that are good enough to use in the paper) cleared the use of his flash it with sectional representatives. He shot some action. There were no concerns from players or coaches. Everything was fine, and a great match was going on. But during a timeout, one adult male stood up in the bleachers and screams across the gym, "NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY! C'MON!" Standing up and screaming in a place where a large number of people are gathered should be reserved for actual real-life emergencies.
And to finish off this rant: Almost all of the behavior of athletes I witnessed this past week has been outstanding. Almost.
* Apparently the Will North boys soccer team has a little goal celebration in which the goal scorer will run around the field and cup his hand to his ear (actually, it's certainly not exclusive to North. We at The News, for better or worse, published a picture of a player from another school doing the cupped-hand-to-the-ear thing after a goal during the season). It's debatable whether celebrations like this are a good thing (soccer celebrations tend to be expressive and fun-loving all the way up to the top leagues around the world; on the other hand, there are certainly those who subscribe to the act-like-you've-been-there-before-and-don't-put-on-a-show theory).
What's definitely not acceptable is one Will North player's use of the gesture during the AA final. He was just involved in some physical play near the sideline, and he appeared to drag a Clarence player down to the field. While no foul was called, upset Clarence fans nearby were certainly calling for one. So what does the North player do? He cups his hand to his ear and smiles to the Clarence fans while he trots away. Ridiculous, classless, unsportsmanlike and embarrassing. Later a Clarence player dragged himself down to that level when he was involved in some action by the sideline and mockingly cupped his hand to his ear. Sigh.
-- Keith McShea