I believe that we will win. Just let us play

Spring sports in holding pattern next two weeks
March 17, 2020

“I believe that we will win.” The chant is a call-and-response interaction between two parties. It begins with one call of "I," then "I believe," followed by "I believe that," and "I believe that we," before concluding with repeated shouts of "I believe that we will win!" Cape girls’ lacrosse was playing Wilmington Charter in the state championship game held at Appoquinimink in 2014. The Force jumped out to a 4-1 lead, and the large and enthusiastic student section rocked that chant, “I believe that we will win!” Cape ultimately won 18-6, putting up a 10-1 crooked number in the second half. The Cape boys defeated Saint Mark’s 8-6 in the undercard semifinal game, then went on to upset Salesianum 9-7 in the championship game at Caravel behind five goals from Blake “Little Big” Mann and 12 saves from Grant Gillan. Last Friday morning at Cape, something was missing from the classrooms and hallways. It was the sounds of students. The day was a scheduled in-service, not related to the coronavirus shutdown. I was in Athletic Director Bob Cilento’s office. So were coaches Pat Woods (girls’ basketball), Ben Evick (baseball) and Chris Mattioni (wrestling), who all dropped in to commiserate. Andre Currie had won a state wrestling title in his own gym a week earlier. “We were so lucky to get the state tournament completed,” Mattioni said. And talk about flattening the curve while popping the balloon – the Cape girls’ basketball team went from a scheduled semifinal showdown March 11 at the Bob Carpenter Center to a Thursday then Friday home game without spectators, eventually to no game at all. “I don’t know what to do and what to tell my players, they are so disappointed,” Woods said. “I believe we had a good chance to win that tournament and bring a championship back to Cape for the first time in 47 years.” Baseball coach Ben Evick, who brought Cape its only state championship in baseball in 2018 and who like Woods is a Cape graduate, said, “Right now, we all feel bad for Pat and the girls’ team and the way that went down. A once-in-a-lifetime team just canceled during their run to a championship.” Cape has been a show-up-at-showtime public school athletic force for the last 50 years. Vikings believe that they will win each time they put on the uniform.  

Pop Pop Prudence - With a camera on board, Darby Dog and I (two old dogs) drove around Saturday looking for athletes in action, which is ironically the lowest-risk group to be sidelined by coronavirus. But they may be unwitting carriers, to which skeptics reply, “Yeah, right?” And unlike U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I found plenty of action, but decided not to be a photo jerk, messing about someone else’s world, because I didn’t want to ring the bell of the community alarmists. I almost got in a community car wash line, figuring it was a fundraiser. Only later did I realize it was the drive-thru line for coronavirus testing. The results have a turnaround of seven days, but Darby and I ain’t sitting in no car for seven days.

Get the year back - Ask any teacher about make-up days and they will tell you, “Days come and go and there are always more days, but you can’t undo or replay the past.” The NCAA has spooled out information that canceled entire seasons due to coronavirus can be gotten back and will not count against eligibility. Many parents of athletes are elated while many athletes will decide, “I will graduate with my class and move on when it’s time to get up on outta here.”  

Bummed - I wrote a short paper at Temple in 1965 after interviews from a visit on skid row (Vine Street) titled, “Kicking It With Real Bums.” The language over the last 55 years has evolved into more genteel descriptions, but the word “bummed” I’ve heard several times in just the last week to describe the feeling of students and athletes sent home in March to begin a life online, the very thing from which we all need to be weaned. In New York City in 1985, the punkin chunkin machine Under Pressure was trying to shoot a pumpkin into the popped trunk of a yellow cab. A homeless vagrant walked from a dark alley right to the open trunk as a New York cop’s amplified voice said, “Hold your fire! We have a hobo problem.” Language in America remains colorful when fewer people are listening.

When in doubt, give up - The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association needs a plan in place to jump-start the spring season if given the green light in two weeks. That organization with its board of directors and state committees by sports should all be enthusiasts and advocates for student-athletes. The Department of Education and state legislators need to go chained-chow barking watchdog on this and demand DIAA accountability or simply take it over. Much is written about keeping hope alive. I know that athletes and their coaches from all these teams are in the barn ready to bust out. How are you going to stop off-campus captains’ practices? You’re not; it’s already happening here and in surrounding states. 

Snippets - I attempt to track local athletes playing and coaching collegiately, and I’m aware of many but not all who have been shut down with their dreams derailed by suddenly canceled seasons and tournaments. Solid students – and that’s most that I know – have the biggest advantage and ability to absorb body shots, make adjustments and keep going. I’d like to request that the Cape school board ask the final candidates for the position of athletic director, “What will you say to Fredman when he comes into your office without an appointment and just wants to sit and kick around what’s new in Cape sports? Go on now, git! You’re hired!” 


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