"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Do we really need H.S. post-season tourneys?

In a couple months we'll have the post-season for high school sports.
It has been my impression that MACA basketball has not excelled in post-season play over the past few years. In other words, the teams do not tend to surprise on the "up" side. They have tended to do the opposite. I don't take notes but this is what I have gathered.
A matter for concern? I honestly don't know. I often think that post-season high school sports gets too excited and emotional, bringing out the worst traits in people in many instances. I often think Stan Kent was right. I interviewed Stan at the time of his retirement from the Morris school system. He said he did not endorse the concept of post-season play for football. He felt teams out to just be content playing for the conference title. That was incentive enough.
With playoffs, every team except the state champion ends the season with a loss, Stan pointed out. With football we also have the rather huge issue of weather getting uncooperative. The Metrodome used to provide some relief from this. The Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley Wolverines got lots of glory under that Teflon roof.
We as Minnesotans got tired of the Dome and its roof, for reasons I cannot grasp. It was a blessing. Us sports fans can get impulsive and demanding.
It's a known fact among school superintendents, I'm sure, that you can always go out and hire some maniacally obsessed and motivated coach who can enhance your chances of post-season success. Hancock had a couple of these once. One ended up in prison. The other was a character of the first order who I'm sure caused distractions for administration.
There is irony in post-season success. I was around this environment a lot in my media career. I always acted like I shared the enthusiasm. Deep down I found it disturbing sometimes. These hyper-caffeinated programs seemed to bring out the worst in people sometimes. Jealousies erupted. Coaches and players in the spotlight of post-season success would be hyper-scrutinized. I don't know how those student-athletes could possibly function as normal students. And then after they graduate, all that investment of time in these sports is really rendered pretty irrelevant.
The maniacally-obsessed coaches often flame out for various reasons after just a few years. They have human failings that come out. Also, the fame they instill for their players is such, the parents of the underclassmen all want a piece of it. The parents get desperate for their kids to become "starters" and to obtain that sheen of "celebrity" that comes with being on a "state tournament" team.
Maybe it's all just too much. Maybe we have to take a hard look at the very system of post-season play, how it rewards the wrong traits - the obsessive traits - in many instances.
We have ourselves to blame because we all acquiesce in this. People my age grew up in a time when we really only expected the "big schools" to win state titles in major sports. Then, everybody got the bright idea that we needed enrollment classes to promote "fairness." What this did, is put every school in the state in a position to think the state title was within reach, which it was.
But, this desire to advance in the post-season could become an unhealthy lure. Certain young coaches would come along salivating, sensing they could achieve great glory by making state or winning state. The time investment could become staggering. The travel commitment for post-season games can be very unreasonable. I remember when MACA football played its first-round playoff game in Fairmont, down by the Iowa border. No excuse for this. The first-round game and maybe even the second should be against the likes of Minnewaska Area, Lac qui Parle or West Central Area. Why not? Let's apply common sense. It's not even safe for fans to travel extremely long distances. They can be fatigued for the long drive home.
Maybe Stan Kent was right and we really don't need the post-season tournament system at all. Let's enjoy the regular season and the challenge of vying for the conference championship. After that, let's have a break and let the kids focus on other priorities at school.
Last year the MACA basketball teams made a quick exit from the post-season. One more year like that, and might we have a little sports controversy again?
Maybe not. Maybe Morris has made a conscious decision to keep all this "in perspective" and not get hyper-attuned to winning in the post-season. Would that be a good thing? Maybe it is.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

1 comment: