Column: Line Drives — Jay County a place to feel included

[I have taken my general theme from the “What I learned today” blog series and transferred it over to my newspaper, The Commercial Review, into a monthly series about what I’ve learned during the course of each month while in Jay County. I spotlight one event each month and use it as the topic for my column. This is today’s column.]

It’s easy to make someone feel as if they don’t belong.

Make fun of them for being different, don’t talk to them or simply ignore them.
I’m learning none of the above is the Jay County way.

When Wallaceburg came to town earlier this month, the Patriots and their followers could have easily treated the Tartans like outsiders.

After all, they were.

But the people of Jay County treated the Canadians the same way I have been treated upon my arrival.

With warm, friendly, open arms.

The Patriot coaching staff, as well as JCHS athletics director Steve Boozier, superintendent Dr. Tim Long and principal Phil Ford, met the Tartans for dinner the night they arrived.

On game day, the Tartans attended classes at Jay County High School with the Patriot football team.

The two teams tailgated just minutes after leaving everything on the field in a thrilling 12-7 Jay County victory, and they even traveled to Muncie the following day to see Ball State University thump Army 40-14.

But it was what happened immediately after the game that early September night that defined the whole experience.

Seeing the Tartans walk away from the post-game handshake with smiles on their faces was enough to make one out-of-towner pleased with the way others were treated by the Jay County faithful.

None of them hung their heads after traveling nine hours and losing.

A few members of the Wallaceburg team joined the Patriots during coach Tim Millspaugh’s post-game talk. And when Millspaugh and the rest of the coaching staff finished with what they had to say, the Tartan players stood up and added a few words.

What stood out the most were the thoughts from Tartan linebacker Tristan Bentley.

Wallaceburg, a town of about 10,000 people, doesn’t support football as much as it does hockey, and Bentley said it was quite overwhelming prior to kick off.

“This was amazing,” he said. “We usually only play in front of about 200 people, and to come in here and see (a packed Harold E. Schutz Stadium) is awesome.

“I was a little intimidated at first with the big crowd.”

Then another Wallaceburg player, who had already shed his jersey and shoulder pads, stood up and had a few words to say.

“No. 66, you really gave me hell out there,” he said, referring to JCHS senior Brentt Lewis.

Boozier tweeted through the Jay County Athletics Twitter page a photo of the two teams together for their post-game tailgate.

By then, it was clear the Tartans felt welcomed by Jay County, and the sentiment continued the next day in Muncie when the two teams were still mingling with one another.

Boozer said in his letter to the editor Sept. 13 that the game helped forge friendships between the two squads.

I’d like to add to that.

The game, the tailgate and the time at Ball State forged far more than just friendship.

It showed the true colors of the people of Jay County.

It’s nice to feel welcomed in a place where you’re a newcomer.

And that’s what I learned this month.

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