If you’re a sports fan, then this week is one you should enjoy.
Not because of the NFL playoffs, or because NCAA basketball teams are getting into the meat of their conference schedules, not even because the beginning of the NASCAR season is just around the corner.
The reason this week is significant is because of what’s going over at Mount Airy High School, and East Surry, as well as North Surry and Surry Central. It’s because of what’s happening at the Armfield Center in Pilot Mountain with the Surry Runnin’ Patriots basketball program, and the activities over at White Plains Christian School.
It’s called high school athletics, and I can’t think of a more pure, fun, intense and enjoyable level of sports to enjoy.
I’ve been a big sports fan most of my life. I followed Major League baseball, for years suffering as a Red Sox fan. I’ve been a Washington Redskins supporter since I knew what a football was. I was a huge Lance Armstrong fan, and I’ve greatly enjoyed what will no doubt be considered the golden years of Virginia Tech football over the past two decades.
And NCAA basketball, culminating with March Madness? Nothing like it, in my book.
But I’m also tired of the same old stories in recent years — the cheating, the scandals, the cover-ups.
Anyone who was paying any attention knew for years steroids and other performance-enhancing substances were being widely used in baseball. It’s popular now to publicly call those users on the carpet, at least the big names associated with the era — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and the like.
The truth is, Major League baseball knew it was happening and didn’t care because the home runs were selling tickets and drawing sponsors.
In cycling, Armstrong put up a great front for years, doing exactly what an innocent person would do — aggressively go after those who linked him to performance enhancing drugs. He sued, and won, for slander and defamation. He ruined careers of other cyclists, threatened journalists and even intimidated those who governed the cycling world.
And now it turns out he was a cheat, too, but I think an even bigger part of this story is that so was everyone else in the cycling world. When his Tour titles were vacated no one else received those titles because every cyclist who finished on the podium (second or third place) during Armstrong’s seven-year reign also has been implicated in a drug scandal.
And college sports? In addition to the steady stream of cheating scandals and semi-pro athletes masquerading as student-athletes, now we have the story of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. You know, the linebacker who finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting? The guy who all of America was rooting for after both his grandmother and girlfriend died on the same day this season?
Turns out his girlfriend, and her ultimately losing battle with leukemia, was a hoax. Not just the story of her death, but she was a hoax. The young lady never existed.
Te’o and Notre Dame officials maintain he was a target of the hoax and not part of it, yet they also admit they knew the story was a lie on Dec. 6, yet Te’o continued to speak of his supposedly late-girlfriend and the emotional effect of her death as late as Dec. 10.
I think most of us are at a point where professional sports, college sports, all of it is one big elaborate scandal-in-the-making, with nothing to be believed or trusted, including those running the sports.
Which brings me back to my first point, about the various basketball games, wrestling matches and swim meets going on involving local high school students.
These young men and women compete for the love of the game. Their emotions, their effort, it’s simply for the sake of competing, to be the best on that particular night. The coaches working with them do so because they enjoy working with youth, love watching them grow into confident young men and women, and because they, too, enjoy the competitive nature of coaching.
If you love sports, I mean true, honest sports devoid of the drama and high dollars, sports that’s still pure and done for the right reasons, then forget the NFL, NASCAR, the NCAA, and all of those organizations, and check out some of the local high school contests.
Sports really doesn’t get any better than that.
John Peters is the editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 719-1931.