Four local football teams will play tonight in the second round of the state playoffs. Chances are, at least one will lose. There’s no shame in that.
If and when that happens to the team you cheer for, take a deep breath, count to 10, say a prayer, count your blessings, go for a run. Do whatever you need to do, but don’t cry about it.
Note: this message is not intended for the players. When you invest months of blood and sweat into your team, tears come naturally at the end of it all. If a player feels moved to bawl because he knows he’ll never strap on the shoulder pads again, never experience the camaraderie of a winning locker room again, have at it. Cry like a baby. I did it. Lots of us did. It’s understandable.
This message is intended for the fans who let their emotional investment in a team override their ability to think and act like rational adults (or rational humans, for that matter).
It happens on an almost-weekly basis. A group of teenage boys beats another group of teenage boys in a game of football sending a few adults into all-out meltdown mode. Said adults then find their release in streams of vindictive digital blasts, fired off on Internet message boards and e-mails to the local sports editor.
“They cheated!” the slighted fan cries, not unlike the loser in a game of fourth-grade kickball.
Locally, these rants are most often directed toward Gainesville or Buford, the two most successful local programs of the past decade; two programs that enjoy, at least to some degree, the admitted advantage of open-enrollment that’s afforded to city school systems in Georgia. In other words, students don’t have to live inside a city school district to attend a city school there if they’re willing to pay tuition.
This drives the fringe fan crazy. Literally.
They want a multiplier system or they want all the private schools and city systems to play in a separate division or they want a three-pronged federal investigation with black helicopters canvassing the greater Hall County area.
But mostly they just don’t want to lose.
These kinds of fans are the sort of people who chirp non-stop about personal responsibility, then blame every petty misfortune that comes their way on the government or some other nebulous all-controlling body that is obviously conspiring against their pursuit of happiness and state championships.
Truthfully, I think a multiplier system might have merit. But that’s not the system we have under the Georgia High School Association, so instead of whining about it, why not adapt to the rules as they’re written.
That’s what Flowery Branch has done. The Falcons are more can-do, less woe-is-me. They got bumped up to Class AAAA and didn’t miss a beat, fielding what is arguably the best team in Hall County this year.
And it’s not like city and private schools are the only ones benefitting from the comings and goings of high school talent. If it were, maybe the argument would hold water. But any astute fan has noticed that every successful team in Hall County has benefited from transfer players in recent years. It’s a part of the landscape now, like it or not. And for the record, I don’t.
Look, losing isn’t fun. It isn’t supposed to be. From the time we start keeping score, the goal is to win. It’s why we spend hours on the practice field and in the weight room. And when all that work doesn’t pay off the way we hoped it would, it hurts.
But losing is also a fact of life; something that will happen to everyone in the sports arena and away from it.
Learn to deal with it and move on. Most of us did that when we moved up to fifth grade.
Brent Holloway is the sports editor of The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesbholloway.