I had a great sports weekend in the middle of October.
It started off with the Mets in the National League Championship Series. Nothing beats having your baseball team playing competitive games in October.
But this is also the month that football is in full swing. I covered three games as a freelance writer this weekend. So far in 2006, I’ve seen more than my share of blowout games, which made what I witnessed all the more special.
First up was a high school game between county rivals. In a matchup of undefeated teams, the Asheboro Blue Comets hosted the Eastern Randolph Wildcats in front of an overflow crowd.
Friday morning, I was listening to a Greensboro-based radio station and they were talking about this football game, which was happening in a different county. It was then I started to figure out how big the game was going to be.
They played the game in Lee J. Stone Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 4,800. They did not announce an attendance, but a high school football highlights show on television estimated the crowd at 11,000 people.
The Blue Comets emerged with a 12-10 victory, their first over the Wildcats since the 1990 season. It was an exciting game from start to finish and the crowd was in the game the entire time.
Saturday, I had a college double header. In the opening game, I got to see my alma mater win, as the Guilford College Quakers upset the seventh-ranked Bridgewater College Eagles, 33-28. Guilford’s win snapped Bridgewater’s 36-game conference winning streak and sent shock waves through the Division III ranks.
For the nightcap, I saw the Greensboro College Pride host the Shenandoah Hornets. I was pretty tired at this point and the game was a one-sided affair, with the visitors running all over the Pride. Shenandoah held a 30-10 lead near the end of the contest.
Just when I thought the game had nothing to offer, something happened which turned it into the most memorable tilt of the weekend. In the final minute of the game, Greensboro inserted its third-string quarterback. He threw a ball that was picked off at the 5-yard line by Anthony Hayes, who proceeded to run up the right sideline. After he crossed midfield, Hayes made a cut back, ran to the other side of the field and eventually into the end zone.
However, there was a flag on the play. The officials called the Hornets for holding at the end of the return. It was disappointing that Hayes’ remarkable play was going to get wiped out because of an inconsequential penalty.
But Greensboro coach Neal Mitchell, in an inspiring moment of sportsmanship, declined the penalty, allowing the touchdown to stand.
Nobody in the press box could believe what happened. We all agreed that we had not witnessed a similar event previously at the collegiate level. Eventually, I stopped marveling at Mitchell’s decision and realized that it was a sad commentary, on sports in general and my (and by extension everyone else in the press box) expectations in particular, that an act of sportsmanship was met with such disbelief.
We’ve become so desensitized by the non-stop coverage from ESPN and other outlets, which love nothing more than to take a negative or controversial issue and hype it to the extreme. Take the recent Terrell Owens pills incident. I could not even fathom a guess as to how much media coverage was devoted to this alleged suicide attempt. Another recent example is the amount of coverage given to the Duke Lacrosse team, in which certain members allegedly beat up and raped a stripper. Or the youth baseball coach who allegedly offered his player money to bean a handicapped member of his own team, so he wouldn’t have to play the autistic child in a playoff game.
By contrast, we won’t hear a single word about coach Mitchell and his decision to do the right thing.
Enough already! I am sick to death of negativity, both real and imagined, being forced down my throat at the exclusion of things that are really important. I’ve always believed in a quote attributed to Chief Justice Earl Warren, who supposedly said, “I always turn to the sports page first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page nothing but man’s failures.”
I want to celebrate coach Mitchell. If you read this and feel the same way, send an email to Greensboro College athletic director Mr. Kim Strable at [email protected] and let him know what a fine coach he has.
After the game, I interviewed Paul Barnes, the winning coach. Here’s what he had to say:
“I thought it was a class act,” Barnes said. “[Hayes] was a senior and he wanted him to have it. Greensboro is lucky to have Mitchell as a coach.”
I couldn’t agree more.