July 10, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The victory lap just might be the precursor to the dogpile.
That thought popped into my head Wednesday night as members of the Columbus Nationals 10-year-old Dizzy Dean baseball team followed each other on a run around the bases at Patterson Field at Propst Park.
The team had just received their medals following a 13-3 victory against Clinton that helped it clinch the South Half state title.
The scene made me smile.
In a way, the events of the past few months in the area had turned me away from the joy that sports can bring and made me focus on what can happen when sports turn people against each other.
The tenure of New Hope High School baseball coach Stacy Hester ended June 30 after two months of comments, no comments, and plenty of gossip and hearsay on the Internet.
Some of the venom and vitriol in the comments amazed me. In more than 17 years of covering sports, I never have seen one issue split a community as much as this one. I also never have seen a community harbor so much hatred toward a coach and his family.
It''s a shame.
Unfortunately, attitudes like that -- in lesser degrees -- are on display at nearly every sporting event.
Earlier this week, I overheard some parents grumbling about calls by the umpires that went against their teams in the Dizzy Dean South Half state tournament.
Earlier this year, I heard parents who apparently had bad days at work taking their frustrations out on officials calling a girls basketball game.
Those are just two incidents that come to mind, and there are plenty more I have encountered listening to fans in the stands at virtually every type of sporting event.
That''s why it was refreshing to watch the 10-year-olds play. They don''t care about politics. In many cases, their only wish is to have fun on the field.
From the looks on many of the players'' faces, it was easy to tell they were enjoying themselves.
The players often stayed that way minutes after games -- wins or losses -- and took time to visit with players on other teams.
I wish sports fans in the area could have seen one or a few of the games because I am sure the experience would have reminded them how fun sports can be.
I hope the people of New Hope take a lesson from the 10-year-olds.
Their baseball program apparently will have a new coach -- former New Hope High School player Lee Boyd -- after today''s Lowndes County School Board meeting. His hiring will start a new chapter in the history of a proud program.
People who have posted comments on the Internet about Hester have said it is time to move on. They''re right. Coach Hester won 551 games and three state titles at New Hope High. Some people feel he did a lot of good things in his 18 years. Some people feel he did a lot of things wrong, too.
That''s fine. As someone once said, "we can agree to disagree."
But people are wrong if they feel all of the comments haven''t harmed New Hope High baseball and the athletic department. It has been painful to watch as people who are supposed to be united and for the kids post anonymous and hurtful comments.
Let''s hope Boyd can be a peacemaker, of sorts, who can bring everyone together, establish some guidelines, and help a community heal.
If he can, New Hope High baseball will remain one of the state''s most respected programs.
If he can''t, all of the hate and misguided comments and beliefs could tear everything the players and coaches before him helped build.
Take a page from the 10-year-olds: Enjoy the game, have fun, and congratulate your opponent.
You can have fun and be competitive -- regardless of your age -- if you keep sports in perspective.
If you can do that, you just might be able to take a victory lap.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Commercial Dispatch. He can be reached at: [email protected]
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.