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Zopf: The cruelty of sports

POSTED: June 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Sometimes sports are like falling for a cruel mistress.

As adults, our infatuation with sports, specifically our favorite teams, leads us to neglect the important people in our lives. Your wife wants you to take her out to dinner? Sorry, honey, there’s a game on at 7 p.m.

Kids trying to get you to watch "Finding Nemo" for the millionth time? Sorry junior, I know you’re only 2, but don’t you know that the UEFA Cup Final is on right now. I know it’s soccer, and it’s being played in Moscow, but don’t you realize that this is the biggest game in the world? Don’t worry, you will one day. And until then, just sit back and relax and enjoy the football, I mean soccer.

When we’re not neglecting our loved ones, sports, like a cruel, cruel mistress, can turn on you in a second and ruin your life.

This is especially the case when it comes to high school athletics. Adults mostly watch professional or college sports where the only rooting interests are favorite teams, favorite players or favorite schools. We’re not actually participating in the sport, so if our team loses we take it hard, but eventually we get over it.

In high school, this isn’t the case. The people involved with high school athletics, specifcally the players, are actually participating and striving for that ultimate goal of winning a state championship.

Sometimes it appears as if that goal is right within reach, and then, out of nowhere, that cruel mistress rears her ugly head and crushes those dreams.

Take the Jefferson baseball team for example.

The Dragons had one of the most potent lineups in Class A, cruised to a Region 8-A title, and after they defeated Eagle’s Landing in three games during the second round of the playoffs, it appeared as if a state title was all but theirs.

But then Jefferson traveled 150-plus miles to Columbus to play Pacelli in the quarterfinals. The Vikings were able to limit the relentless Jefferson offense to one run in two games, sweeping the Dragons right out of the playoffs and ending their season a few weeks premature.

That’s sports for you.

Flowery Branch’s baseball team had the same fate with the mistress.

The top-ranked Falcons were, for a lack of a better term, flying high when they reached the Class AAA state playoffs. Winners of 16 straight games, the Region 7-AAA champions appeared unbeatable. Then Riverwood beat them in Game 2 in the first round. Uh-oh. The Falcons suddenly appeared poised to feel the wrath of the sports mistress.

But they didn’t. The Falcons went on to beat Riverwood in three games, setting them up with a second-round matchup with Ethan Martin and the rest of the Stephens County Indians. We all know what happened next.

First the rain came and pushed back Game 3. Then the Indians, with mistress in tow, pounded Flowery Branch for 16 runs in two innings to end its season.

But the area baseball teams weren’t the only ones to feel the pain caused by unexpected losses to end the season.

In tennis, both Johnson’s boys and North Hall’s girls were highly ranked heading into the playoffs. Neither made it out of the first round.

In soccer, Flowery Branch’s boys and North Hall’s girls made remarkable runs toward a state title, and despite valient efforts, neither could sneak past the mistress and achieve the goal of winning a championship.

The losses for the aforementioned teams, as well as the ones that ended the year either in the playoffs or during the regular season were especially difficult to handle for the seniors involved.

For the seniors, and I’m sure there were hundreds of them, the dream of ending their high school careers with a state championship didn’t come true. And for most of them, the losses that ended their respective seasons this spring, also ended their playing careers.

Some seniors have been afforded the opportunity to play sports at the next level, where they will once again embark on a goal of winning a championship. It may happen and it may not.

So here’s a little public service announcement for all you athletes out there. Regardless of how your athletic career comes to an end, whether in high school or four years from now in college, remember that it’s everyone’s dream to win a championship at some level. Some realize that dream, but most don’t.

So hold your head up high and continue your relationship with sports, because no matter how many times your heart gets broken, whether as an athlete in high school or as a fan as an adult, the mistress that is sports will always have you coming back for more.



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