I’m a huge sports fan. I follow my local NFL team, the Colts, and NBA team, the Pacers. I watch college basketball from time to time. I watch as many NFL games as I can and some NBA games on television. I was a high school and college athlete in cross country and track and coached high school teams in those sports for sixteen years. I still find myself attending some high school sporting events.
What attracts my attention the most in high school sports and college sports isn’t the play on the field. Sure, that’s part of it, but what I like to watch for is how the athletes work together. I read articles about the Alabama and Clemson football teams being the best talent-wise and that’s why no one can prevent them from playing in the National Championship game every year. No doubt, those are some talented athletes. What I notice beyond the talent and beyond the desire of those teams is how they function as a single unit, as a team.
Earlier this season, Purdue Head Football Coach Brohm had player names removed from the back of his players’ jerseys. I’d been reading a series of articles over the first month of the season full of disciplinary problems, issues, that the Purdue players were having. When I heard about the removal of the names from the jerseys, I applauded coach B (even though I’m an Indiana Hoosiers fan).
Have you ever studied the statistics of high school basketball games nowadays? They’re full of three-point basket attempts. What happened to the two-point basket games where teams warred it out on the court? Those players want scoring and lots of it. Each kid wants to score as many points as possible. They think that scoring more points equals a greater chance of getting a college scholarship. In some ways, they’re correct. College scouts and coaches do look at scoring totals. This bothers me greatly. Why look only at the scoring? Why not look at something like defensive stops? Encouraging scoring encourages the “I” factor which decreases teamwork. Sometimes I feel that high school teams winning titles are winning because they’re the only ones playing the team game. Our local high school, Hamilton Southeastern, had both Gary Harris (current NBA star for the Denver Nuggets) and Zack Irvin (past Michigan star and playing in Europe last I heard) on the same team. They were back-to-back Mr. Basketball selections in Indiana, yet even having both of them on the same team wasn’t enough to get them past the first round of the state tournament.
The idea I’m proposing here is that we quit considering the names on the back of the jerseys and consider only the name on the front. The name on the front represents people, not a person. It is a symbol to all who have been at that institution or played on that team over the course of all time. It is something groups can rally around, cheer for. When that front of jersey name wins, everyone wins. Team is where it’s at. So all of you who think Alabama and Clemson are so much more talented, take a closer look at the team those individuals all worship and play for. The team name on the front says it all.