Sunday, November 13, 2011

State champion - and that's it?

The aftermath of state finals in high school team sports is fascinating.

It's sad to watch the runners-up, teenage athletes who aren't entirely certain what to do with their understandable emotion but 99 times out of 100 show a great deal of class in defeat.

(There are exceptions, but we'll stay classy here and not cite examples that may or may not have involved throwing medals in the trash.)

It's exciting to see the state champions, watching countless hours of work culminate in the reward of being the best on the biggest stage.

Yet even when you reach such a goal, something you and your community will remember forever, there's one part of it nobody quite takes into account.

The finality is so sudden.

Take soccer, for example. In my decade covering the sport in this area, I've never had a state champion - area teams are 0-5 in state finals during my tenure. (Insert joke about me being the kiss of death here)

But watching the opposite touchline, it's such an odd circumstance if you think about it. You learn how to kick a soccer ball when you're, say, 7 years old, and you advance through to the high school ranks with the hope of one day bringing a state championship to your school.

Then when it does happen, you get the trophy, walk over to the goalmouth and get the team picture. And that's it. As soon as you get the trophy, you're on your way home.

Football is also a prime example. About a half-hour after the Division IV state title game last year in Massillon after it beat Chagrin Falls, I watched Columbus Hartley players quietly file onto their buses. The job was done, and apparently so was the celebration of a momentous occasion.

Let's be clear - no one is expecting if you win a state title in a team sport in, say, Columbus, that you're going to get a police escort up Interstate 71 in a victory parade with your fans lining the route.

Still, for all the rightful focus teams put on winning a state title, it's amazing to watch the aftermath when they actually do.

It seems like winning the lottery, and then wondering what you'll have for breakfast tomorrow morning.

It's all very odd.

- Chris Lillstrung


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