The Blame Game: Sports fans always looking for scapegoats

January 22, 2013
Phil Wilson is shown with his granddaughter Ellana at Thanksgiving. Phil, now a computer guy at Sussex Tech, ran on Cape state championship cross country and track teams in 1977 and 1978. SOURCE SUBMITTED

Tough sledding - The Cape girls' basketball team lost to Padua at home Saturday afternoon 63-46, dropping to 1-9 on the season. The game concluded and people milled about, most not sure what to say.

It’s wrong to say anything like “not much talent” because you’re talking about high school kids who all just gave their best effort. It’s easier to beat on the coaches, but Lamont Hazzard and Will Edwards are coming off four straight state tournament seasons.

Over the last three seasons, Cape has a combined regular-season record of 44-15, including a state final appearance in 2011, the first in 37 years, and a semifinal berth in 2010. There were monumental upset wins over Ursuline in the 2011 tournament and a 19-0 Saint Mark’s team in 2010. Based on observations of middle school basketball, the future looks challenging. But sometimes when you least expect it, a good team comes together because of chemistry and a sprinkling of reasonable talent and a couple real good people. But don’t beat on Lamont and Will - at least out loud and not to me - because 44-15 doesn’t support that assertion.

First ballot Hall of Famer - Isn’t it enough to be a Hall of Famer in a sport? So why now do people say “first ballot”? Is that person better than a ninth-ballot guy who barely got in? It’s all pretty silly, if you ask me. Harry Carson, New York Giants linebacker, stopped playing in 1988 and was passed over for NFL Hall of Fame induction until 2006.

Carson had asked to have his name taken off the ballot because the only thing worse than buying into your own Hall of Fame persona is having a bunch of wankers with ballots voting you unworthy. But Carson got in, showed up and led off his induction speech saying, “"The Hall of Fame will never validate me. I know my name will be in there, but I take greater pride in the fact that my teammates looked at me as someone they could count on.”

Making plays - Great athletes override anything coaches are doing when big games reach the final minutes. I saw it on television Jan. 19 when Syracuse beat Louisville by a basket and Butler beat Gonzaga by a point on a buzzer beater in college basketball games.  All strategic plans are off - it just gets crazy.

The NFL conference championship games were mystifying as Atlanta was in front by 17 then had the game in front of them but took the choke collar on two shots to get four yards with under two minutes remaining. The Ravens were just way better than New England, which proved such a myth the team plans to draft Manti Te'o with the first pick in the upcoming draft.

Coaching granddaddies - Phil Wilson, a former runner on two state championship teams I coached (cross country and track), just became a grandfather. His wife Stacey is also a former student. His daughter’s name is Carolina; she ran track for Sussex Tech back in the day. I also heard from former Cape all-state nose guard Tim Gray that Jimmy Brittingham was retiring from his job with the state of Delaware and was having a party on Jan. 19 and did I have any pictures of him in high school?

Jimmy (call me James) graduated from Cape in 1978 and won the Kevin Kennedy Award. His son Jim and daughter Jayme were great athletes at Caesar Rodney. Jayme was a major player on Caesar Rodney’s 2004 state championship field hockey team coached by Debbie Windett. But I’m dealing with being the guy who coached Pop Pops and retired guys. I remember Jimmy in high school walking up to me and saying, "Coach, somebody stole my bike right off the front porch so I went to Troop 7 and told the trooper at the desk 'I’d like to report a theft' and he said, 'Okay, what did you steal?’" That’s Jimmy Brittingham, he can always make you smile.

Snippets - Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 and the Cape Henlopen School District was formulated and consolidated in 1969 from Milton, Rehoboth and Lewes school districts. The Cape athletes from the early '70s immediately became powerhouses in boys' track, boys' and girls' basketball, and field hockey. Those kids are now over 50 years old, and many are grandparents. They embraced diversity and pulled this broad community together. “Living the dream” is a fun and righteous way to live your life. Go on now, git!

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