Rejoice in victory; be gracious in defeat

Published 8:50 am Thursday, August 10, 2023

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I’m not as dumb as I look.

That was among my dad’s favorite sayings….one I’ve used on occasion myself.

Now is one of those times.

As the calendar flips to August and the young men here in our local area hit the football practice field, all the smack talk among area fans kicks into high gear.

I always listen, with great interest, to those arm-chair quarterbacks making their bold predictions (or, in some cases, uneducated guesses). Sure, the outcome of some games – based on how unevenly matched the two teams are – can be correctly predicted prior to kickoff. But even on rare occasions, a big underdog will pull off a huge upset, leaving the “experts” scrambling to make excuses.

For those who study all the fine details, predicting the outcome of a football game can become easier by paying close attention to a team’s strengths and weaknesses over the course of the entire season. You can then compare those attributes (or lack thereof) to the upcoming opponent and make an educated prediction on the game’s outcome.

Some may even go as far as to incorporate analytics into their weekly predictions. Perhaps they think that feeding statistics into a computer will help them overcome their poorly executed natural judgment.

Note: when all else fails, flip a coin!

Decades ago, when I served as sports editor of this publication, I use to do the same exact thing….attempting to figure out what type of seasons our teams would have before the ball was placed on the tee and booted for the first time.

Now a bit older and wiser, I’ll stick to what I do the best…watch the game, keep stats, take a few photos and write a few football stories. But that doesn’t mean I’m bored with the sport. High school football remains my all-time favorite sport.

While American-style football traces it roots to 1869 when the very first intercollegiate game was played in New Jersey between in-state rivals Princeton and Rutgers (per information from, I prefer watching the high school version of the game. There’s still something special about Friday nights in the late summer months and into the early fall. Maybe it’s because that football is a sport that holds contests just one time per week. Nothing against basketball, baseball, soccer, softball, tennis or volleyball, but those athletes compete several times per week for an entire season. After a while, those sports become watered down as far as the excitement level and pre-game hype is concerned.

Playing just once a week in football is also unique in another fashion. For example, a team gets roughed-up pretty bad on the scoreboard. The fans have an entire week to figure out the best way for their team to bounce back the next week. The coaching staff and players are also afforded that luxury, studying game film and making adjustments which will make them more competitive against their next opponent.

In my 40-plus years of covering high school football, I’ve seen teams take such a butt-whipping that it hurt me to sit down, but by the very next week they’ve put that loss out of their minds and went out and thoroughly spank their foes.

High school football, like all prep sports, is also special in the sense that these young men put it all on the line for nothing more than pride in their school colors. Meanwhile, their coaches, at least the ones I know of here in the local area, are paid very little in the way of a supplement. But if you ask any football coach worth his weight in goal posts why they spend such long hours preparing their team for battle, the majority will tell you it isn’t about the money, but rather for helping to shape and mold a young life for a much bigger contest down the road – the game of life.

Those coaches do indeed play a key role in preparing young people for the future. The simple fundamentals they teach on the field or court serve as the foundation these young people will build upon as they enter the real world. The coaches will preach the team concept…the sum of the whole works better when in unison. That lesson comes in very handy when these young men are employed perform interdependent tasks to work toward accomplishing a common mission or specific objective.

Teamwork plays a very important role in organizations as well as our personal lives. Here’s a quote from Henry Ford who built an automotive empire: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Now, in the era of NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) where collegiate athletes bounce from school to school in search of the biggest wad of cash they can find, the simplicity of high school sports makes it a better game to watch. They play it for the love of the game.

Before this month is over, young men here in the Roanoke-Chowan area will set out on a mission to take what they’ve learned on the practice field and attempt to out hustle, outplay and outscore their opponent. Please remember they are just kids playing a game. Please remember that they, like their coaches, are human and prone to make mistakes. Rejoice in their victories and be gracious in defeat. In other words, support your team and coaching staff no matter the outcome.

Good luck to all of the high school and middle school athletic teams here in the Roanoke-Chowan area as the 2023-24 academic year begins.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.  

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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