I’m a hater. I’ve said that numerous times throughout these columns over the past 2 1/2 years, so hopefully you’re used to it by now.
I feel like I’m mostly a hater because I enjoy stirring the pot. I’ll consistently whine about the length of a 182-game baseball season, but then turn around and cheer for the Cubs. I try not to be a cranky old curmudgeon like Charles Barkley who thinks the Golden State Warriors are bad for basketball and things will never be the same as the “good ol’ days.”
That’s a bad hater.
So as much as I come here and chug a big jug of refreshing lemon-lime Haterade, I’m also willing to put the jug down for a minute and discuss the good in sports — the kind of stuff that makes you say, “Man, sports are awesome.”
You know, like when the NBA had the slogan “I love this game.”
First of all, congrats to Michael McGuire and the Big Horn Lady Rams on their 2A state girls basketball title. I watched the young Lady Rams early in the season and can admit I thought they had a long way to go. They weren’t bad, by any means, but a run to their first championship in eight years proves what kind of work they put in over the last several months.
And the win made McGuire a two-time champion this school year after winning the 2A football title in the fall. I don’t know how often that happens or when it happened last, but it’s insanely impressive, especially looking at how different football and girls basketball are. The guy can flat-out coach.
So there’s plenty of positive in the world of sports at any level. Whether it be as obvious as McGuire and his teams’ runs to state championships or the quieter forms of sportsmanship, these moments keep us human, even if we have to look a little deeper to find them.
I’m not sure if it’s because I sit and watch a ton of sports and notice every little detail or if it’s because moments like these are too often few and far between, but I notice. Maybe both. Maybe neither. But I notice.
I’ve written about this before — players picking up empty cups around the bench after a game or teams taking a collective knee when an opponent is injured.
Well, I’ve noticed a few other acts of good sportsmanship throughout the basketball season, as well.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Press staff photographer Justin Sheely and I made the trek to Clearmont to interview and photograph a trio of senior boys basketball players — Clancy Kretschman, Tommy Nimick and Cameron Weigle. I’ve talked to plenty of student-athletes, some well-spoken, others not so much. They’re young, no big deal.
The AC trio was more of the former. They were polite, genuine and honest. When Sheely moved the players around and had bright lights flashing on them in the gym, they soaked it in. They had fun, stuck around the school until we were finished and got excited when shown the finished product.
Earlier in the season, the Big Horn boys basketball team traveled to rival Tongue River for the second matchup of the year between the two teams. Big Horn won the first one pretty easily and jumped to a massive lead in the rematch.
Late in the second half, with a loss lingering, TR’s Jaren Fritz collided with Big Horn’s Nolan McCafferty under the basket. The play was whistled dead, and Fritz immediately reached down to help his opponent off the floor. No hesitation.
Finally, Robbi Ryan, a local superstar in her own right now tearing up the Pac-12 Conference, showcased her character in a win over USC last month.
At the end of the third quarter, Ryan’s Arizona State teammate Sophie Brunner buried a half-court buzzer beater, causing a massive pile-up at midcourt. In the midst of all the excitement was Ryan, a little off to the side, helping up a teammate who had stumbled during the celebration.
I’m not even sure anyone else noticed. It happened so matter-of-factly, and the attention was definitely — and rightfully — drawn to the dog-pile at the center circle.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge some good trash talk. Drain a 3, drop to a knee and strum some air guitar like Slash became the best basketball player on the planet. Hit a home run and toss your bat to the moon. Score a touchdown, run down the tunnel and shoot finger guns back at the defense you just torched.
Trash talk is my favorite.
But the world needs sportsmanship to balance that out. As you can tell, that probably won’t come from me. I’m sorry. But as long as we have players like the ones listed above, we’re in good hands.
They allow gunslingers like me to keep our trigger fingers warm.
Who needs the good ol’ days? Cheers to you guys.
Mike Pruden is the sports editor at The Sheridan Press.