In Burlington, Rice Memorial High School's boy's basketball team won the 2009 Division One Championship crown. They successfully carried out their game plan to end up a small shovel full of points ahead of the team who beat them in last year's championship contest, the Burlington High's Seahorses, who had won 46 straight games.
The game was fantastic to watch. I'd note that each team had a formidable list of functions they needed to check off in order to trot away with the win, and after full game regulation and one overtime period, Rice just happened to have been able to check off a couple more from their list than Burlington was able to mark from theirs.
The pleasure of the game wasn't wondering or caring whose list would end up more fully checked, it was in observing the manner for which the teams and their coaches attempted to go about completing their tasks.
Starting with warm ups and lay up drills through to the presentation of the winner and runner up trophies, I'd doubt there could have been a more pleasant, sportsmanlike, game played out in any gym across this entire country.
During introductions we watched each player from both teams come to center court and acknowledge the opposing team's coach with a handshake. For the national anthem we saw the Seahorse players standing tall in single file facing the flag, one arm placed on the shoulder of the teammate directly to his fore. The Rice players took the anthem in line, with their arms held to front, relaxed, hands together at their mid. Such actions are most likely de rigueur at high school basketball games, but seeing it for the first time this year I stood struck by the sincerity of the moment.
During the game if a player felt the ref made a bad call, there was nothing more than an instant of protest from the player before he moved on. It takes seasoned concentration to carry on after you and your side of the gym feels wronged; Concentration that was evident throughout the night, not only from the players, but from the head and assistant coaches, the trainers, and even Rice's water boy, whom I saw more than once tug at his oversized team shorts with the same intensity his players used when setting to their defensive stance or "skying" for a board.
There were absolutely no outbursts of self triumph after a great play, and boy oh boy was that refreshing to see in the age of opening the present before Christmas.
Spirit, discipline, self respect, and respect for others were qualities I noticed, not just from both ball squads and their cheering peers (the students slathered in body paint, smiling, hooting, stamping, living the life were model), but from every person in the Patrick Gymnasium that night. I left the game feeling I'd been part of a large community who'd shared witness to an overall wonderful event.
You all hear? The world is right. Board up your fret and close your mind to the presumed doom and gloom they shout at us all day, every day. I'm exclaiming there is a societal equilibrium that's very present and accounted for -- whether they shout it, or not.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com