Just as West Virginia coach Neal Brown expressed the need for his staff and players to step away from the Mountaineers’ season for a couple of days, I’m going to do the same.
And I may land right on some toes.
That’s just fine, because whether it’s from being run down and road weary, or whether I’m just getting crankier in my middle age, I’m finding it more and more difficult to ignore certain things.
Here’s something I just haven’t had time to address until now.
Not long ago, our Rick Ryan wrote a great piece on upstart Herbert Hoover, headlined “Unbeaten … but unbearable?” It was a nice angle to take at what has arguably been the best team in the Kanawha Valley to this point of the prep football season and, as per usual, Rick did the story justice.
In the story, Rick described the blowback as the Huskies have rolled to a 7-0 start, outscoring teams 357-27 along the way. Grumblings about how coach Joey Fields and Hoover have run up the score on opponents. And of course, the always-reliable recruiting/transfer accusations. That train is never late.
Rick’s piece was a feature story, not an opinion piece. He stuck to the facts and perspectives of coaches and players involved.
Well, guess what. This is an opinion piece, and I’m going to say the first four words that came to mind upon finishing his story.
Stop whining, get better.
That’s what I used to say verbatim to the public school vs. private school complainers. I figure this will go over about just as well.
But the running-up-the-score, they-play-with-transfers crying is just as intolerable. I can’t take it.
I’ve covered Fields’ teams for a long time. I interviewed him when he was with Mingo Central and I believe I did when he was at Martinsburg, too. I’ve never found the guy to be anything but class, and it’s been fun to talk football with him.
But regardless of your opinion about Fields, here’s what you have to understand: His job isn’t to make opponents feel better about themselves, it’s to make sure his team is the best it can be. Hoover finishes its schedule with games against Mingo Central, Poca and Logan, and while he may not admit it, I can promise you Fields’ sights are set further down the road than that. Much further.
See, while Hoover has been blowing the competition out, other Class AA contenders like Fairmont Senior, which has a played tougher schedule up to this point, have not. Come playoff time, that may be an advantage for the Polar Bears, who will have a team full of tested, conditioned and tough players.
So, if Fields thinks the best way possible to prepare for a postseason run, against the schedule he has, is to play his starters a full 48 minutes, he should have the right to do so. You know a good way to keep a team from scoring a touchdown? Stop them before they get to the end zone.
If you’re a parent of a player on an opposing team and you feel your child was scarred psychologically by a Hoover blowout, trust me, there will be greater tragedies in his/her life. In fact, teenagers are pretty resilient when it comes to such things, and if they’re not, they better get that way because no boss they ever have will lighten their workload in fear of piling on.
If I haven’t offended you yet, then let’s try this: There should be no transfer rules.
Read it again, because I mean it. None.
Who the hell are you or anyone else to tell a taxpaying, law-abiding citizen that if he/she has the means of transportation and believes his/her son or daughter has a better athletic opportunity at another school that he/she may not do so without his/her child sitting out a year? Why, because it makes your school’s competition tougher? Or because your child has a better player to compete with to make a team?
Someone make it make sense. If my kid is a genius in math, and I like the math teachers better at School A than School B, I’m pretty sure they’re not going to make my kid sit out of algebra class for a year if he/she transfers. Colleges give out tennis, swimming and football scholarships just like they give out academic scholarships.
Some of the same people who yell the loudest about this are the same I see on social media screaming about freedom and vaccination mandates. OK, let me make sure I’ve got this right: You’re for freedom when it comes to life-and-death pandemics, just not when it comes to high school athletics?
It’s also funny how there are never any gripes when a transfer helps a school or community. Because trust me, after 13 years of being around prep athletics, there’s not one school I know of that didn’t play a transfer in at least one sport during that time.
Consistency. That’s all I’m asking for.
Look, I was a pretty good baseball player in junior and senior leagues. When I got to high school I sat behind four other pitchers, three of whom transferred from other schools.
Guess whose fault it was that I didn’t play more.
Mine. I didn’t put in the work to be a better player, and sooner or later, whether on my own team or in games, that was going to catch up to me. Learning that lesson then prompted me to work harder later in life, when it really mattered.
As human beings, we inevitably lose. Often. Family, friends, significant others, relationships, jobs, our keys, TV remotes, matches to half of our socks and, yes, if you ever compete in anything, games.
It’s just not always fair in life, love and laundry.
And it’s not in athletics either.
Just don’t hate the player. Or the game.
Or the coach.