In the long run, high school athletes are better off being on a losing team. It gives them a more accurate picture of the real world and provides a valuable dose of humility. Also, the bond between members of losing teams can be very strong, similar to that of shipwreck survivors.
I was on a losing high school football team for two seasons and it was just what I needed to prepare me for the fumbles and losses of later life. I’ll never forget the first time I got to play in a varsity game, I think the coach had decided not to send me in unless the team was so far behind it wouldn’t make much difference.
“Kid!” he called, pointing to me on the bench. I was shocked. I hadn’t been pointed at all season. “What’s your name, Kid?”
“I forget Coach, I’m very nervous. Just call me Kid.”
“Okay, Kid. There’s a time-out. Go in at left tackle and tell them to run the quarterback end run play. We might actually get on the scoreboard before the final gun.”
I tripped over the water bucket running out. My vision was impaired because I’d put my helmet on backwards. “The coach said to run the quarterback end run play,” I shouted as I approached the huddle. Unfortunately it was the wrong huddle which was a serious security breach. Our quarterback was nailed right after the snap.
I got to play in more games the next year mainly because the squad was smaller. An anti-football committee was formed on the PTA called “Mothers Against Mayhem” and some of our best gridders were forced to switch to the track team. Our record was pretty dismal.
The game we dreaded most was our last of the season and possibly of our life on earth. We were to face the mighty and undefeated Memorial High. The very name invoked a grim vision of Valhalla and dead warriors. There was always at least one ambulance parked near the field during Memorial games.
After another one of their running plays when their bulldozer of a line had flattened our defense, my buddy Tom who played left end had a dazed look. “What day is it?” he asked me.
“It’s Sunday. We always play on Sunday. What’s the matter with you, Tom?
“If the coach thinks I’m too beat up, he’ll bench me and that’s always his test question, ‘what day is it?’. I just wanted to know for sure.” Poor brave Tom. I should have told him it was Monday.