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Learning a lesson

I've spent my career calling it down the middle.

Newspaper folks are supposed to strive to be as unbiased as possible. I don't choose sides, even when it comes to hometown football.

Let me rephrase that: I didn't choose sides, even when it came to hometown football.

Last Friday night changed all that.

Thomson's loss to Westover taught me a few painful lessons about my life and career.

First and foremost, the only thing worse than a Bulldog's bite are its tears. I can't begin to describe how painful it was to watch players -- some guys I even call friends -- give in to their emotions as time ran out.

Which leads me to the second lesson: I don't know what Thomson High football means to the players. I can't even comprehend it. And I'll go so far as to say this: If you haven't strapped on a helmet and pads, you can't get it either.

Now, I'm not saying you can't be a fan, and you can't support the Dogs week in and week out. But I am saying you -- and I -- can't begin to break the surface of what the black and gold means to the kids who spend their high school careers hurting, bleeding and sweating just for the chance to be a Bulldog.

Or a Buccaneer. I've seen the same feeling and emotion from players at Briarwood. The pride they get from putting on that uniform and seeing their name on the back is indescribable.

I don't think I quite got that until Friday.

I didn't understand that football can make young men fall to a knee, bury their faces in a towel and cry.

No matter how much the loss hurts me or you, it's nothing compared to what those players feel. Many of them have more heart and more love for the game than we'll ever know.

They deserve our respect. They deserve a handshake and pat on the back. They deserve to walk off the field and into the rest of their lives with their heads held high.

None of that is too much to ask.

And that is something some "fans" just don't seem to get. As they left the stadium Friday night, they were more content to yell and curse at the coaches and the team than to offer any kind words.

Of course, that was the easy way out. All they had to look at was the back of helmets. They didn't have to look in the eyes of those players and coaches. They didn't have to wipe the tears of a Bulldog.

By the time next season rolls around, maybe they'll understand that. And if not, let me volunteer to buy them a ticket for another game in another stadium.



Web posted on Thursday, November 11, 2004


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