Column: Line Drives — Apology nice, but not needed

[This is my column in the Aug. 27 issue of The Commercial Review.]

In sports, apologies aren’t necessary.

Coaches don’t need to apologize for being particularly hard on a player.

They want the best out of their players, and they will try to push them to become better athletes.

Players, if mistakes are made, don’t need to say they are sorry for doing something wrong.

After all, they’re just kids anyway. Kids aren’t perfect.

The blunder will be used as a learning experience, something the athlete can be sure to never do again.

Last week, I was wrong.

I had it in my mind the Jay County High School football team’s 24-year losing streak to Delta could come to an end.

My column last week centered on a Delta football team that, for the most part, did not have a ton of experience. It was replacing one of the school’s best rushers, and a plethora of players on the defensive side of the football.

For one quarter, Jay County put up a fight. After 12 minutes, the Patriots trailed 7-0.

But a turnover in the end zone on the first play of the second quarter turned into momentum for the Eagles for the remainder of the game and a 63-0 beating of Jay County.

Much to my chagrin, the losing streak moved to 25.

Saturday afternoon I received a text message from a Jay County football player that caught me off guard.

“Hey, just wanted to apologize,” the message read. “I know you kinda stuck your neck out for us, and we let you down. Sorry.”

While the apology was appreciated, it was completely unnecessary.

He’s right, though. I did, in a way, stick my neck out for the Patriots. I did it for good reason too.

I am a firm believer that rivalries in sports are a great thing.

To have that one game each year on the schedule that is most important creates an amazing experience, from both a player’s and a fan’s perspective.

I played in my fair share of high school rivalry games. I’ve been in the stands on a Saturday cheering on the Central Michigan Chippewas against their rival, the Western Michigan Broncos. I’ve also been at The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for University of Michigan football games against both Michigan State and Ohio State.

When those games are highly contested year in and year out with no clear favorite going in, rivalries are at their best.

One-sided rivalries, like that between Jay County and Delta, are painful.

Wouldn’t it have been a much better atmosphere Friday night had the intense, back-and-forth nature of the first quarter — despite the opening kickoff being returned for a touchdown, neither team had the upper hand on offense or defense — continued the final three quarters?

Games that go down to the wire are much more enjoyable than blowouts.

I thought Friday’s tilt in rural Muncie was going to be one of those games — a contest that had battles for field position, third-and-short plays that got stuffed at the line of scrimmage and a spread on the scoreboard far closer than 63 points.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of those games.

I’m not going to say I’m sorry for the column last week.

(After the game I chatted with Chris Overholt, a former Jay County assistant who is now on the Delta coaching staff, and he said my column wasn’t inaccurate. Even he mentioned his current team until that point was unproven.)

I took a risk in writing that column and it didn’t quite pay off.

It was a column about a game. Neither of which matter at this point.

That’s exactly what I told the player who sent me the text message apologizing for “letting me down.”

To the senior whose team wasn’t able to beat Delta like I thought they could, I also responded with this:

“I still stand behind what I wrote and everything I have ever written,” I replied, in part. “I still have a ton of confidence in you boys.

“Week one does not make or break a season. It’s OK. Friday is over. Worry about who is next.”

I respect his desire to apologize. But in sports, saying sorry isn’t necessary.

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