Thursday, February 05, 2009
The Super Bowl is more than an excuse to party with your friends, it can be filled with lessons that you can apply as well. Here are some of those lessons as applied to two of the schools I cover for the local paper.
1. Never count a team out of a game, a season, or anything else, because they can and will surprise you.
Obviously the Arizona Cardinals were the laughing stock of the NFL for years, and no one expected much of them this season, especially after a 47-7 loss at New England in January. Yet, there they were on Sunday night, going to toe-to-toe on the game's biggest stage. While neither could ever be considered a long time laughing-stock, both the Windham boys and girls basketball teams have exceeded expectations this season. The boys, at one point, while adjusting too missing two of last years starters, were 5-6, but have won their last 6 straight games (including a 42-41 thriller Tuesday night, in which Brandon Guerette hit a shot at the buzzer to give the Eagles a win) and are now 11-6 with one final regular season game left at Westbrook. The Eagles boys are locked into a 7 seed in the upcoming Class A tourney, and with a schedule that featured plenty of tough games, they won't be an easy out in the post season. The girls have a similar situation, currently sitting at 10-7 with one game remaining. Coming off of last year's 4-14 season, many may not have expected the turn around that came this year. They are currently 5th in the Heal Points, with a 3rd or 4th seed a possibility as well.
2. Never underestimate a team's heart.
When Pittsburgh fell behind with a little over two minutes left, many fans rooting for the underdog got caught celebrating too hard too soon (including this columnist, who suffered his back injury jumping in the air and landing awkwardly celebrating the Larry Fitzgerald touchdown, causing him to watch the rest of the game from the comfort of his hardwood floor). Pittsburgh didn't flinch, they rose to the occasion and came back to take the lead and win the game, showing the heart of a champion. The Windham swim team, capitalizing on the momentum from a revitalized St Joesph's swimming facility, went into this past weekend's Southwestern championships in Cape Elizabeth, had a very strong showing on both the girls and boys side. The boys, whose team consisted of 7 swimmers, held on to third place among the 12 teams that competed for much of the weekend, and ended the meet in a very respectable 5th place. The boys produced personal bests in nearly every event they were in, including a relay team over heavily favored Massabesic by 0.16 seconds. They tallied 2 first places finishes, 3 seconds, 2 sixths and a 7th. The Girls used a steady approach where no one girl finished higher than third place, but when the dust settled and the points were tallied, the girls left with a third place trophy in their hands. An impressive weekend for the swim team, and a great job by Peter Small and the athletes.
3. Many times a team that has struggled has brighter days ahead
Before the improbable run to the Super Bowl, the Arizona Cardinals had not been to the playoffs since 1998, when an upstart Jake Plummer led an upset of the Cowboys in Dallas. Although at first glance many might look at the boys and girls basketball seasons in an unfavorable light, think of some of the positives. There are two coaches, Greg Rose for the boys, Andrew Morong for the girls, in their first years leading the varsity squads. Both are young, energetic, and can relate to the players. They can motivate them , and they command respect whether the game is close or out of hand. No matter the record, many times in high school sports, the biggest thing is to see how well the team is listening to the coach, and both teams are still showing the coaches the respect they deserve. Morong inherited a team with no returning starters, and Rose inherited a team that went 3-15 last season. Both have shown the combination of drive and patience that are necessary to succeed at the high school level, which means the hard work it is going to take to get these two teams into the playoffs will not be too much for these two to handle. Many players will be back for both squads next season, and then they can look back on this season in much the same way the Cardinals looked at their past seasons, as learning experiences. With one game left, a win will give he boys a one game improvement on last year's record, while the girls will want to finish the season in the win column. So both teams have something to play for coming down to the finish line.
4. A history of success and consistency starts with one successful season
The Pittsburgh Steelers have won 6 Super Bowls, and winning the first one helped set the stage for the next 5. You can't win 6 without winning 1, and the Patriotic Knights hockey team is an example of that this year. Sitting at 10-3 and in 5th place of the Eastern Maine Class A Heal Points, the hockey team has put together a very impressive season. With two schools combining athletes to create a program, one successful season is all it is going to take start and continue a level of consistency seen in many of the other Class A programs. They have 5 games left in the regular season, including one against 11-1 Gorham, and if the ones they are supposed and pull off the upset against Gorham, this team has as good a chance as anyone to go all the way. Once they have the first one, who knows how many more they can get?