This weekend was a tough loss. I don’t know that I’ve ever been as invested in a group of players and coaches’ families like I have been with this group. And it’s been three years of continuous wins. Of glorious, riotous, practically-perfect wins. And Friday night hurt. And if it hurt me – a marginal member of a legendary football dynasty — I can’t imagine the pain of the players and coaches. Although I did bear witness to it. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let me tell you what I see and know about these boys and their leaders.
For the past two years, from the stands and practice fields, I’ve witnessed this team pour all of everything they have into the game, purifying their sweat and blood and spinning it into gold. And purple. Because these athletes are alchemists. They have transformed common elements of a typical Friday night under the lights into the stuff of legend. They are legend.
And I’m not talking individual legend – though we have that too. We have region and state and national legends among this team. But, no, I’m talking legends of discipline and legends of character. I’m talking quality of soul and purity of heart. They are good fellows, the whole lot.
They own and are the stuff of legends. And victory was theirs. For so many seasons
And then, last night, it all ended in seconds. And in silence.
And the loss was so sudden and so heavy and so hard.
And what I saw after, in the belly of a field house they’ve called home half a year every year for their high school careers – a field house witness to half-time harangues, post-game heroes, and now postseason heartache – was the purest pain I’ve ever borne witness to. Players wrapping themselves up in the arms of their football family for strength and support. Searching for a way to handle the hurt. To shoulder the hurt. To weather the hurt. Padded shoulder pressed to padded shoulder, coaches patting heads and rocking giant bodies while whispering words of comfort and wisdom… and love.
This team knows love. The fans love them. The community loves them. And we are all hurting with them. But those coaches have a different love for their players — a love unfathomable to those of us who have never played the sport. But I see glimpses of it from the practice field and the sidelines and the field house. I see its power. I see how it builds confidence and character and futures.
Yes, these boys know love. And they know disciple and determination and how to win big. And now they know how to lose big.
And I know this loss – with its devastating, season-ending sting, a sting they will always feel somewhere deep in the marrow of their being – will prove valuable to these players and their coaches alike.
Because football is truly an alchemist’s sport. And it gives players the skills to transform baser matters into gold – and this loss, this harshest of base matters, is their biggest challenge yet. But they have what it takes to sift and sort through the pain and then forge ahead into the brightest of bright, golden futures. They have the stuff. The stuff of legends.
Your fans are in awe of you, Hurricanes. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for showing us how you spin sweat, blood, and tears into purple and gold.
*Huge photo creds to Cathy Sharpe, Cartersville Purple Hurricanes sideline photographer for capturing this beautiful cover shot.