Self-indulgent rants are necessary if for no other reason than they make every sports columnist feel like a highly paid trial lawyer if but for a day.
Hearing that John Smoltz hasn’t been re-signed with the Braves, having an opinion on why that’s an idiotic move and justifying that opinion in writing with concrete evidence is cathartic, especially when you imagine other people reading it and shouting, "Amen."
Sometimes, however, it’s less about what fires you up and more about what moves you.
N.C. State Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow died Saturday. She’d been battling cancer for 20 years and was finally beaten.
Yow’s passing got me thinking about my maternal grandmother, Wynette Baxter. She died of breast cancer 19 years ago this month. She was a sports fan, went to my daddy’s games when he played at Georgia and came to my park and recreation softball games — which is a true testament to one’s character and fandom because those things are boring.
For some reason, a vivid memory surfaced when I read about Yow on the ESPN ticker: My mother, sisters and I standing up in Sanford Stadium the fall after grandma passed, watching my father and his former Georgia teammates re-enact the flea flicker for its 25th anniversary. My mother turns and says, "I just wish," and pauses to swallow the lump in her throat, "she’d love this."
She would have, and also would have popped me, subtly rolled her eyes and sighed heavily for the last two paragraphs.
Yow once said that while she never expected to win 700 games, a gold medal or go to the Final Four, she did expect to work harder than anyone else.
Since their move from Class AA to AAA in 2006, expectations haven’t been very high for the Lumpkin County boys’ basketball team.
Etiquette may dictate that nothing negative be said about a team that’s gone 9-38 the last two seasons, and nothing negative will be said here.
Expectations haven’t been high, except in the Indians’ locker room.
This year Lumpkin County is 9-7 and has already won as many subregion games (four) as it did that last two years combined.
The boys have found their niche and it’s working for them.
They don’t run-and-gun — they can’t. Depth and personnel don’t allow for it. Lumpkin County is methodical and patient, waiting for the perfect time to attack and then doing so. The Indians, with a coach who never calls the same play twice, work the ball out of a motion offense. Every pass is crisp and each player who catches one is ready to shoot, drive or pass — the holy trinity of offense.
The Indians wear defenses down, not with athleticism or ankle-breaking moves, but with will. Playing defense is hard. Playing it with focus for more than 30 seconds is nearly
impossible without something breaking down somewhere. That’s what the Indians are playing for — that window.
Moreover, the players know their roles. Chris Guthrie isn’t the slasher, E.J. Young is. Austin Tolbert doesn’t dunk, he passes it to Shawn Chapman so he can.
Defensively, they don’t swat at every crossover dribble or try to block every shot. The Indians simply move their feet, let you take a shot and then box out — an opposing coach’s nightmare.
From coach Bobby Smith to the starters to the sixth and seventh men; from the offense to the defense, Lumpkin County is as disciplined a high school team as there is.
None of that was more evident than in their five-overtime win against Chestatee on Friday night.
It could be argued that a disciplined team wouldn’t have allowed its opponent to come back from a 24-point deficit, which would be true. However, working with a five-man rotation and momentum against them, the Indians held the ball for the better part of the 20-minutes of overtime.
They had opportunities to shoot. They had opportunities to drive and lay it up. They also had opportunities to turn it over, but didn’t. They listened to their coach, believed in their coach, shortened the game by keeping the clock running and limited a hot Chestatee team’s possessions.
On top of all that, they were disciplined enough to overcome an incredible comeback.
That’s the kind of perseverance Yow would be proud of.