Column: Final Four gives lesson on whats not ‘supposed to,’ happen in sports

Published 4:05 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Need to get my soapbox out for a second, but there’s a trend in younger kids that I’ve noticed of late.

There is a generation of young athletes being raised up that don’t know what it means to respect their opponent.

I overheard a couple cocky teens conversing recently.

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One was talking trash about another team that was “supposed to” beat a team that they’d lost to.

They were talking down the team that lost and the team that beat them with an annoying amount of smugness.

Stay around teens long enough and you’ll hear them describe opponents as “trash” or “garbage” in ways that you never heard when I was growing up.

I’m not sure of who’s to blame for it, but it feels like an issue that transcends across the spectrum of different sports.

Talking some smack in the moment is part of competition — we all know that — but thinking you’ve got the game won before ever hitting the field is cockiness personified.

I think part of it goes into how much information our athletes have today.

They can go look at a website that has scores reported and see that Team A. beat Team C. by so many runs. So, if their own group, Team B., beat Team A. when they first played, then they’ll sure whip that sorry group that calls themselves Team C.

That’s not how it works though and that’s not the way things have always been either. I distinctly remember a trip to play a junior high basketball game at an opponent that we knew nothing about when I was growing up.

The school was new to our district, and we’d never played them. Feeling like we had a good team, we went to their gym and got throttled for four quarters. Afterwards, someone told us that the home team hadn’t lost a junior high game in over three years.

We didn’t have MaxPreps or Scorebook Live to tell us how good they were. We just showed up and played a game and from that we deduced who had the better team.

The second time we met, we beat them in overtime. They’d earned our complete respect and attention on the court with the beating they gave us earlier in the year.

If games were won on paper, then Farleigh Dickinson shouldn’t have even showed up to play Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Farleigh Dickinson didn’t even win their conference tournament to reach the tournament, while Purdue spent most of the year in the top five in all the major college basketball polls.

FD was a no. 16 seed, while Purdue was a no. 1 seed. A no. 1 had lost to a no. 16 just once before in tournament history.

If Purdue came into the game with any preconceived notions of superiority, they dropped them quickly as the Knights from Hackensack, New Jersey came out the gate with the intention to win the game.

That’s what most teams do, they play to win the game, no matter how bad the odds look.

That’s true for college basketball during March Madness and it’s true for our local Dixie Youth baseball teams that are at the start of their season.

Look at the NCAA Final Four that’ll be held this weekend. It’s the first time in tournament history where no team seeded no. 1-3 made the final weekend of play.

Few expected Florida Atlantic or Miami or San Diego State to make it this far — all three are playing in the Final Four for the first time ever this weekend.

They earned that right by winning on the court, not with their mouth and not by advancing because they were “supposed” to win.

Don’t hear me say that I’ve got this whole thing mastered personally.

My son is 11 and there are times where he’ll think we’ve lost before we ever hit the field or times where he thinks our team is going to win automatically because we’re facing a group that we’ve beaten before.

I do my best to explain to him that it’s never really about your opponent, it’s about your own individual effort and that collectively of your teammates. 

Do your best. Have teammates who do their best. Work together. Encourage each other. Listen to your coach.

Do those things and even if you end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, you can hold your head up high.

An 11-year old boy doesn’t always want to hear that.

His rec soccer team didn’t win a match during the recent Spring season. 

In the last two minutes of the last game of the season, they tied the best team in the league at 1-1.

The referee announced that one minute remained in regulation. The opposing team kicked off, had two touches at midfield and then fired in a long shot that won the game.

It was another lesson — the kind that can only come through sports — about how you can’t let up until the final whistle or horn.

Let’s all look for those lessons — on our local fields or on the national stage — to teach our kids how to be better teammates, better competitors and overall better sports.

Cliff Furr is the sports editor of The Daily Leader. He can be reached via email at sports@