The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat
Remember the late Jim McKay, the exceptional ABC TV Sports announcer, who was known for many things including his repetition of the phrase: "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat".
I keep getting reminded all the time by people that it's only a high school game and there are far more serious things in life than dealing with a scare, or a defeat, in a sudden-death playoff game. After hearing so much, one tends to accept it from time to time and start preaching it too.
Yet, there are other occasions when even this scribe feels upset for the student athletes who had worked so hard, game after game, and wake up the next morning realizing that it's over for the year - and maybe for a high school career.
And, fair game, congratulations to the teams who put it all together in a playoff, pulled the upset (or came close to it) and enjoyed that thrill of victory - maybe inspired by coaches and all the hype attributed to others.
I can just imagine what's going on at several schools today and the feelings of players who now have to put aside sports and pay more attention on academics. It can be a struggle for awhile.
Gone from competing for Ontario medals are Toronto's Father Henry Carr in basketball and Brother Andre from Markham in hockey - two teams who have annually been up there. Great players, great coaches. With so much parity this year, both had a chance to challenge for the big title. Both have now been eliminated.
Blessed Mother Teresa, on home court, beat Carr 53-51 at the buzzer in a Toronto District Colleges senior basketball game. Carr, a team that had won almost 50 games, folds up shop. Mother Teresa needs a win over Pope John Paul II on Sunday to play in the provincial playoffs. On the ice rink, Markham - the same school that won the Metro Bowl in football - stunned Brother Andre eliminating the Cardinals in back-to-back York Region hockey games, 2-0 and then 5-4.Markham had only won nine games this year.
There were more thrillers. Pickering needed OT to beat Notre Dame 75-66 in a Durham Region senior basketball meeting of Ajax-area schools. And Oakville's St. Ignatius of Loyola, another school with almost 50 wins, allowed Nelson of Burlington just two points in the second quarter but still needed OT to win the Halton Region Tier One senior basketball title, 48-43. And St. Andrew's, the hockey haven in Aurora, advanced to the private school final after beating Toronto's Upper Canada 5-4 in triple OT. I am sure there were other thrillers too.
In this often mixed-up, controversial and exciting world of high school sports, there are also life lessons to be learned. Not everything is winning a game. For some, it is. Hopefully, for the majority, the experience and opportunity is paramount.
One final point, it's about back-door games. That's the term some use so that schools who lose, still get an opportunity to advance. There is no consistency, some leagues allow this, some don't. Toronto's public league will see teams advancing to the Ontario playoffs in sports - even though they didn't win a league title. Some leagues will have a second entry because they're either hosting the playoff or, because of the way the Ontario playoffs finished last year, they get a second invitation. Why not have one set of rules?
Maybe it is also time for something that has been talked about for years. Yet, some schools don't want to risk the political backlash. How about a provincial championship, an invitational, for just the best teams - the teams who have been there week after week and don't get eliminated in a sudden-death scenario?
I would think that would be a money-maker, a forum to attract interest in high school sports and also fill many of the far too many empty seats we see at games. Just a thought.