They won’t be sitting on the fifty yard line with you, but not everyone will agree that this weekend’s state football finals is the best thing that could possibly happen to those who will play to become a champion.
Our staff is pretty much packed and ready to travel to Canton.
And if you’re from Versailles, Marion Local, Springfield, Kettering Alter…your weekend plans are already made, as well.
Following Monday’s ‘Huddle’ show with Bruce Hooley, I got a text from someone asking about where to stay, best place to eat, and what to see if you’re a first-timer in Canton for the OHSAA football finals.
Frankly, I’ve never stayed at a bad hotel in Canton. They all do a great job, and I think pretty reasonably.
Second, a favorite restaurant destination for me has always been Benders, in downtown Canton, just up the street from the Courtyard Marriott. Great food and environment.
What to see, of course, would be football-relatable. You go to the NFL Hall of Fame, just adjacent to Tom Benson Stadium.
It’s funny, that while I firmly believe that Stark County is the right place to have the tournament because the people with businesses do their best to make it a great place to visit…the Stark County Visitor’s Bureau could probably do more, state-wide, in getting out the message.
So you heard it here…Benders, any hotel of your choosing, and the Hall of Fame is one of the two best in any sport, second only to the baseball hall of fame, in Cooperstown, New York.
This is all after the game, of course. The main course will be the games, themselves, and what I believe represents one of the most important moments – opportunities – in the lives of the 700 or so athletes there to compete for a state championship this weekend. For you see, it’s about a lot more than just coming home with a trophy. Because…once you win a title in anything, you’re a champion (in name) for the rest of your life. It changes you. And no one can take that away.
You’ll forever be recognized for your skills, your commitment, your work, and your value as a teammate…not only by the community, at large, but more importantly, by prospective employers, colleges, and any kind of opportunity where your credentials are compared to someone else’s. Being a champion carries with it that much leverage.
That’s my opinion, of course, despite the fact that I never won a state championship…in anything! Some Miami Valley League championships in baseball at Piqua High School in the 60s is the best I can claim. And believe me, when I get together with old teammates now we still value those experiences and relationships.
But winning, and the privileges thereof, are not universally appreciated by the progressives in culture today who believe that striving to win is anything but ‘progress’ – that it creates a sense of being elite, that it’s divisive, and that it’s exclusionary. Meaning, if you’re not a champion you’re not as good as someone who is. That’s convenient to their narrative, of course. But it’s only state of mind, if you choose.
Ernie Banks never chose that, and he never won a championship with the Chicago Cubs. Yet, he’s a Cooperstown Hall of Famer and rose to be one of baseball’s most respected immortals.
Pete Maravich never won a national title at LSU, or a World Championship as a performer in the NBA. But he’s still recognized as the greatest scorer and practitioner of skills in the history of basketball.
Seabiscuit never won a Triple Crown race, but we remember him for winning every other race he was in…one of the great names in the history of thoroughbred horse racing.
In fact, halls of fame are filled with people who never won a championship, but they never stopped trying, either. And many of them went on to enormous personal success after sports – and leadership – because of the lessons and training attained through competing to become the best.
That lesson, by the way, is fully imprinted on the athletes at Marion Local and Versailles high schools this week, who will proudly represent their school, and their community, in Canton. But just as important, they carry the pride and the tradition of the Midwest Athletic Conference, known now as the premier football conference in all of Ohio – 152 overall titles since being constituted in 1972, and 44 football titles, shared between Marion Local (13, the all-time record), Versailles (7), Delphos St. John (6), St. Henry (6), Coldwater (7), Minster (3), New Bremen (2), Anna (1), and Fort Recovery (1).
Kettering Alter will be playing for its third, last winning in 2018.
And the Springfield Wildcats…will be playing in their third consecutive Div. I state final, seeking its first – pay attention now, their first – state title in the history of Springfield football, North and South prior to the merger. Ironically, they’ll face Lakewood St. Ed, seeking its seventh championship, and its third title win in a row against Springfield.
Trust it, there’s no reason to try and convince the Wildcats that winning a title for a their school, their city, and for the sake of individual accomplishment should be secondary to making someone else less invested feel just as worthy. This is where the progressive argument gets blocked, and tackled.
There is absolutely no understanding of what finishing first – beating the odds, and completing the race – would mean to a team like Springfield, who lives in a different world from the privilege that comes with a school like Lakewood St. Ed – with more resources, advantage, and attraction.
And, with any of the teams that win this weekend you’re not going to get far with the argument of “yeah, but”. They know that champions are champions, forever – engraved, imprinted, and as Lincoln said, “forever in the hearts of their community (countrymen)”.
For that reason, if you’re a journalist it’s really hard not to admire anyone in an OHSAA final, regardless of sport. You want this experience for every athlete, and you don’t want it watered down by making sure that the privates play the privates and the publics play the publics. If you’re going to be a champion…you want it to come against the ABSOLUTE BEST competition available. That’s old school, of course. But ‘Old School’ is what made us as good as we are, despite those who disagree.
A parting thought…I have a closet full of meaningless trophies that no one ever sees.
And frankly, I’m not that proud of them. I’ve never been a state champion!