Last Friday night, sports had so much love in Maryville. The Spoofhounds football team was staring down the barrel of a 6 – 3 season. That’s unheard of here in Titletown. Worse yet, the 49 game home winning streak was in serious jeopardy.
The night started with the Lafayette quarterback looking like Ezekiel Elliot. The elusive quarterback seemed to gain 15 yards every time he touched the football. When he wanted to pass, that quarterback could drop a pass into his receiver’s hands 50 yards down field.
Then something very creative happened. The Maryville offense controlled the ball almost two-thirds of the game with a bruising ground game. The defense bent but didn’t break with a three-man rush. Sometimes it looked like the Spoofhounds were trying to control a runaway horse just by surrounding the quarterback. The good guys even picked off a couple of passes.
It still came down to the final seconds. That special Lafayette quarterback drove his team 86 yards to the Maryville five yard line. The last play of the game would be a chip shot field goal to win the game for Lafayette. Even with a screwed up snap to the holder, the quarterback almost won the game with a pass while falling on his back. Almost, but not quite; the pass was knocked down at the last second and Maryville had secured their 50 game home winning streak.
While the Spoofhounds celebrated on the field with a feeling only a great win can give a team, my thoughts went to the other side of the field. After all my years in coaching and watching sports, I had spent enough time in the purgatory that comes with such a disappointing loss.
I’m sure the Chiefs Nation has that feeling tonight as I write this blog on a very late Thursday night. How can anyone that lives or dies by the Kansas City Chiefs say they love sports tonight? When the Raiders are given four chances to win on the last play of the game, the disappointment is greater.
It was September 10, 1972. I was a fifth year senior at Kearney State College. A few friends had gathered at Frank Chapman’s apartment to watch the Americans battle the Russians for gold in basketball at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.
Anyone that follows history knows there was not a happy ending. The Russians were given three chances to win the game in the last three seconds. Finally, on the third try, they made the perfect full-court pass and beat the American team for the first time in Olympic history. I really hated sports that night.
I have to admit, I remember the times I loved sports with great wins more so than when I hated sports with horrible losses. I’ll never forget the night of April 7, 2008. I was on the couch with Sam, who was seven years old, watching the Kansas Jayhawks play the Memphis Tigers for the national basketball championship.
The game was on a Monday night, a school night. Back in 2008, Sam was a huge Kansas fan. Not so much now. He is now a big MIZ –ZOU fan. However, on that Monday night, he was living and dying with every Kansas field goal.
When Memphis took a seven point lead with around a minute to play, Sam cried like someone had just stolen his favorite toy. A few minutes later, he was jumping up and down, breaking the springs of the couch when Mario Chalmers hit a three point shot to send the game into overtime.
I’m pretty sure he was the only first grader still awake when Kansas held the championship trophy high. Sam made school the next day, but I’ll bet he didn’t earn many A’s that day.
Speaking of A’s, who could love sports any more than that wild card game in 2014. Jon Lester was coasting with a 7 – 3 lead in the eighth inning. Suddenly, the Royals scored three runs in the eighth and one in the ninth and we are headed to extra innings.
Sam and I had seats right above the Royals’ bullpen. The game was scoreless until the top of the 12th inning when Oakland scored the potential winning run. It was way past Sam’s bedtime for the recently turned 14 year old son of mine.
I couldn’t have made Sam leave that game for a new Mustang car. I wouldn’t have gone for that Mustang, either. When Salvador Perez singled just past Josh Donaldson’s glove to drive in the winning run, the clock had snuck past midnight.
Thought of tough losses like the 1972 Olympics was long forgotten. Who couldn’t love sports? There’s no feeling like what Sam and I was feeling. It took forever to get out of the parking lot. We finally hit our beds at 4 am. Sam was at school at 7:45. I drove him, barely keeping my eyes open.
If Maryville’s football season ends in anything but a win, Sam and I will have that disappointing feeling. We might even say we hate sports. But we’ll jump right back into it. Basketball begins in a month and spring training can’t be that far away. Who can hate sports?