Saturday, February 27, 2016

Not a Civil War

Let me preface this post by saying that some of you may find this as a shock when you read it... but the last couple of years I've learned a lot about perspective.

I love high school basketball. If you know anything about me, you know this is true. Football is wonderful, volleyball is great, but high school basketball, especially during tournament time, is my favorite time of the year.

I love Breathitt High School. I've literally been cheering for 36 years. My Mom, to me, is the heart and soul of Bobcat blue. Through the years, because I didn't want to get a divorce, I've donned maroon and white and purple and gold, but I'm not going to lie and say that I didn't still love Breathitt. (And I cheered just as hard for those teams. In fact, I've occasionally been known to yell out the wrong mascot... like when Owsley was playing Jackson and Wallace was at Jackson and I yelled "Go Owls". Thankfully, no one but my Aunt Nora heard me!)

Last night, I sat in the pep section at the Breathitt vs. Jackson game. The prize was big... a 55th District Championship. I sat in the pep section because Wallace wanted to be in the pep section. First, because he loves those kids and they had supported him the night before. Secondly, a big game like this is bound to get dirty, and he wanted to be there to stop it before it did so. And I was extremely proud of our kids. There were no ugly chants. Not a lot of foul language. Just kids... being kids. Which is exactly how it should be.

And y'all, I cheered... because it's what I do. I'm not lying when I say that I can't go to a game and NOT cheer. I cheer for my Bobcats and Ladycats, and sometimes when I go on scouting trips with Wallace I HAVE TO SIT ON MY HANDS so I don't cheer for kids like Maci Gibson and Whitney Creech and Hannah Cash and Lydia McIntosh (because that really doesn't shine well for an opposing coach's wife to cheer on another team. Wallace even told me once, "You can't cheer them on, because what will the other team think?") And that's the beauty of high school basketball... fans cheering on their teams.

Anyway, it was a great game, last night. Great atmosphere. Packed house. Signs up everywhere. Our cheerleaders were loud and so were theirs. Both end zones were full.

And at the end of the game, Jackson won. They won fair and square. There was no cheating, no undue fouls. May I say this? There will ALWAYS be people who blame it on the referees. A lot of the times, I'm that person... but last night it wasn't.

It was a game that you loved if you were a true high school basketball fan.

It's not fun being the losing team. It's not fun watching the other team cut the nets. There is no celebration in runner-up, even though your season isn't over yet. So, Breathitt's fans filed out of the gym (I'd like to point out that the smaller crowd we had the night before didn't even stay to watch their own team cut the nets, but, as Caleb would say, that's none of my business).

I was happy for Coach Back and Coach Turner and Coach Howard.

Not happy because we had lost... but, you see, as I've gotten older, my perspective has changed somewhat.

I'm learning that to cheer for your team doesn't necessarily mean that you're cheering against somebody else (I have not, nor do I think I will ever, get to the point where I have that perspective for Knott Co. Or Belfry in football... but that's a whole other story).

The thing about high school athletics, if you're involved in any way, is that it truly is something that you have to put your heart and soul into. Endless hours of practice, even in the off-season. Scouting trips and late nights for those coaches who can't get a loss out of their head and are always looking to the next game.

On the way home, Caleb and I had a good talk. I've been reiterating this point to him since Jackson beat us earlier in the season. Y'all... at the end of the day, it's just a game. There will be two numbers on the score board, and one will be higher than the other, but the guys on both teams will still be breathing. (And if they aren't, well, that's a whole other problem). Despite how some people in our community choose to act, it's not a Civil War. Caleb has friends on both sides. Last night, he wanted to sit with some friends with Jackson but HE WAS AFRAID SOMEBODY WOULD SAY SOMETHING. He asked me if it was ok if he went and talked with his aunt, for crying out loud.

There is something very wrong with that picture. Since when did we get so obsessed about a basketball game that we forget about community?

As I've reflected about last night, I'd like to say one thing. In many cases, the kids are more mature than the adults.

And we wonder why sometimes our kids act out???

I don't see everything, and a lot of times I leave my blinders on on purpose, but for the most part, I thought last night was a class act by both teams. So many people on social media said that Breathitt had poor sportsmanship... but I really didn't see it. I wasn't there to see someone take down one of their signs. When emotions are high, you will always have something that seems unsportsmanlike... I don't care how well behaved kids try to be. Excitement will make you behave in ways that maybe you might not otherwise, and that's none of my business, either. In the heat of the moment, we often lose our head. That could be a good thing, or a bad thing.

What is my business is the fact that I'm raising a son in this community, and my chief goal as a parent is to teach him to treat everyone with respect. Sometimes it's hard. Y'all, I get mad and want to respond. Sometimes I do, and have to push the delete button.

But at the end of the day, whether you're at the top of the hill or the bottom, whether you bleed blue and white or purple and gold... we don't have to be against one another. I preached it when I was at Jackson with Wallace and I'm preaching it now.

We are one community. There will always be individuals who don't represent that community well, who push for divisiveness and chaos... but it is up to each of us to choose how we will respond. At the end of the day, it's my job to practice peace as much as I can.

Maybe that's turning my head when someone tears down a sign, or scrolling down the newsfeed without responding when someone posts about you on social media. Maybe that's telling someone they did a great job and left their heart on the court.

These people are your neighbors. And it's not a Civil War.

Good luck to all of our 55th District teams. I'll be cheering you on... just not if you're playing Breathitt.

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