Win or lose today, Bears a credit to community

First Posted: 12/11/2009

When you really think about it, there are few things remaining in our society today which can be called excellent.
I would venture to say that the pursuit of mediocrity has all but replaced the quest for excellence in the American experience. This is true of big government, our economic system, public education, music and other segments of the entertainment field just about anything one can name.
Fortunately, folks in this city still can point to at least one entity in our midst which is worthy of the excellence label. That is the Mount Airy High School football team, which will be seeking its second-straight 1A state championship this afternoon in Winston-Salem.
Its not enough just to praise the won-loss record of the Bears, although they have been undefeated for two years. The team is 15-0 this season and is riding a 31-game winning streak that stretches back to the start of last season on Aug. 22, 2008.
Amazingly, the Bears have not lost a game since Nov. 23, 2007, in the third round of the state playoffs to Albemarle. They had won the previous 13 contests that season, which means that since the start of the 2007 campaign the local teams overall record is 44-1.
Behind those 44 victories are days of grueling practices, bus rides to distant locations, preparing for teams with varying offensive and defensive schemes. Along the way, players have contended with all the usual setbacks of illness, injury and other issues that can plague any group of teenagers presenting numerous headaches for their coaches to overcome.
One would think that with all the obstacles faced, any team could be expected to stumble here and there and have a bad game. Not the Bears.
Such a record also requires more than the efforts of players and coaches; to steal someone elses phrase, it takes a village. That includes much effort on the part of moms and dads and other family members in supporting student-athletes involvement in a demanding sport, a lot of cold nights sitting on hard bleachers watching games.
That commitment has produced a football squad with a record few schools in North Carolina can match.
The Bears success contradicts the modern brand of sports, which like the rest of society reflects mediocrity to a large extent. In pro football, the salary cap and free agency has meant there are no dynasties anymore representative of the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s or Pittsburgh Steelers of the next decade.
Economic factors surrounding the NFL ensure that a team no longer can stockpile good players who will remain with that club for any length of time, as was the case in the past.
College basketball is another example of this; there are no more programs such as UCLA which can remain on top year after year. Superstars tend to stay around for only one season before jumping to the pros. Gradually, school spirit has been supplanted by the promise of riches.
Last years NCAA championship run by the North Carolina Tar Heels was a rarity in this regard, with the team made up of players who actually stuck around for four years.
Yet with all its modern problems, sports remains a venue where outcomes are decided not by shady back-room deals or office politics, but by what actually happens on the field or court. There can be plenty of trash-talking beforehand, naturally, but sooner or later things have to be proven during competition for all to see.
So sports is still a great equalizer in our society. When a player lines up against another, he doesnt care if the daddy of that kid staring back at him from across the line is worth a million dollars. He just knows hes going to do everything possible to leave that opponent flat as a pancake.
All that being said, I wish the Mount Airy Granite Bears good luck in todays 1A championship game. But even if they do have that uncharacteristic bad outing, the Bears have more than proven they are winners and are a credit and source of pride for our community.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected] or 719-1924.

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