High school sports versus pro sports. Which do you like better? Or is it equal but for very different reasons?
No doubt there is value in rooting for the pro sports teams. You can yell at and criticize them and not feel too badly because they are not children and they are getting paid. Investing in a franchise as a child and following them through your life is rewarding as well when they achieve success. No doubt.
But if given the choice of only one, I will take high school sports. I have no direct connection to Caribou high school, Forest Hills, Lewiston, etc. but this weekend all three of them brought me different types of joy.
We will start with the Vikings, because I am I guess the most connected to their story. 29 years ago I found the old film of the 1969 state championship that has been so well documented, especially recently. I tracked down the key people from that 1969 history. Mike Thurston, Matt Donahue of Westbrook, and then sophomore in HS and now Senator Susan Collins.
I was able to locate the original radio broadcast from the legendary Dewey Dewitt. Not sure how, but he seemed to know at the time that decades later it would be a moment everyone would still be talking about. He was right.
While the results of this weekends state championship was a great ending for Caribou, the story leading up to the game was what impressed me the most. An entire town traveled more than 300 miles to support their community kids. “The county” sometimes gets a bad rap, for the cold, the snow, the relative feeling of isolation. But what a beautiful testimony of pure joy, adulation, and commitment. Supporting athletics at it it’s purest form. With no contracts, no endorsements, no giant inflated egos. Just kids who love to play a sport.
Throw Forest Hills into that mix.... I had more kids in my math class when I was in high school than that entire school has. Eighth graders being allowed to be on the roster, nobody in the state better this year. What a great story.
Lewiston Hockey. Not exactly an underdog as it feels like to actually win the state championship every single year. Third period of the regional semi-final, trailing 5 to 2 against their inner city rival from Edward Little. Three goals in the final minute and a half to send it to overtime, and then the game-winner. What unbelievable drama, emotion, and sheer ecstasy. A sense of community pride.
During all high school sporting events, there’s a chance to have a moment that takes you away from whatever stresses are going on in your actual life, let’s you go back to being a child, when you loved the game because it was a game.... every championship season, every year, I am reminded of how special it is.