OK, I'll admit it. After 3 1/2 decades covering high school athletics, I'm pretty sure I've seen it all at one time or another, even if I don't always remember the when and the where.
Take basketball, for example. What's left after you've witnessed unbeaten state championship teams, winless teams, athletes who went directly from the high school to the NBA, last-second shots to win games and coaching shenanigans that make Bobby Knight seem tame?
As I drove to Shiloh High School for Saturday's three-game boys' shootout, I fully expected to watch six teams compete, various individuals play hard and perhaps a few acrobatic shots that leave you thinking, "he couldn't do that again." I thought if I were lucky there might even be a buzzer-beating shot to win one of the games.
I was all prepared for a few hours of deja vu.
The last thing I expected was to see something new. And yet, hours after the event ended, I can't stop thinking about the day's highlight.
The La Salette team played Shiloh in the day's middle game. The game itself was not the story. That was reserved for the La Salette student body, which made the 18-mile trip en masse to support their school.
What a job they did.
If you didn't know, you'd swear the enthusiasm and energy generated by the young men was for a championship game. The cheering reached a peak at the opening tip and was unrelenting during the course of the 32-minute contest, won by La Salette.
I've heard high school crowds which were as loud -- for brief moments -- but never a foot-stomping, hand-clapping cheering throng that was so consistent in its support throughout the entire game. Listening to them (was there anoother choice?) something else separated these spectators from virtually all others at any athletic event I've attended.
They were cheering FOR their team, not AGAINST the opponents. I'm positive there were no negative comments directed to the three-man officiating crew. Nor were there taunts thrown to the other team. Beyond that, they showed their courtesy when players from either team were preparing to shoot free throws. As if someone were coaching them, there was total silence without any hand-waving distracting antics.
It was an experience I didn't think was possible. It reminded me of pictures my grandfather used to show me about crowds that attended games in the 1920s and 1930s. Men were attired in ties. Women were adorned in dresses. You could almost imagine the kinds of wholesome cheers that they brought and they weren't ones where you felt embarrassed to say you knew some of these individuals or sought to cover the ears of the closest non-teenager.
Profanity-laced tirades? The closest these students came to anything questionable was a momentary "air ball" when a Shiloh player missed badly on a shot attempt. A disapproving look from headmaster Father McMahon, keeping the scorebook, quickly stopped the chant within seconds.
The overall respect and sportsmanship demonstarted by the La Salette student body is truly unparalleled in the thousands of high school games I've seen. It's one thing to see exemplary conduct from two or three individuals, quite another to see it from each and ever spectator sitting (standing!) in a particular section.
It was heartwarming and refreshing. I'm told this wasn't a one-time spectacle. It occurs at every game where the team plays. Don't know when I will attend my next La Salette game, but I have a new memory that has vaulted into a position of prominence on my all-time top 10 list of favorite moments.
If these are the next generation of leaders in our country, wow, I can't wait for the future to arrive.
Thanks, La Salette. You made my day and reminded me that I truly haven't seen everything.