Is that true? How do I know? What am I even talking about?
In all honesty, I was initially just attracted to the turn of phrase and kind of reverse-engineered it to fit my needs (not the first time), but in my mind it relates to the Corner Conference basketball tournament.
So, like a faithful adherent to my generation’s most notable trait, I had been slacking through the first few weeks of 2016. Not all around, entirely, but certainly in the arena of making it out to sporting events, I caught some of the wrestling tournament in Rock Port and a few fine showings by Southwest Iowa grapplers, but until boys’ semifinal night in Stanton a couple weeks ago, I hadn’t seen anything else.
I made a point to hit the last three nights of the conference spectacular, though, and man did I happen upon some great games showcasing the top tier of our talented teams. On Thursday, the Fremont-Mills and Stanton boys steamrolled into the championship game on strong defense and a stunning variety of offensive weapons. Friday night in Tabor, the Lady Blue Devils put it all together to top the Lady Knights in the third-place game and avenge a frustrating early-season defeat. Madi Moores played half-a-foot taller than her actual height and in a gear no one else on the floor could match, while her teammates exhibited the never-say-die Nishnabotna ethos I’ve always admired.
In the marquee matchup of the night, undefeated Essex and the surging Sidney Cowgirls produced an instant classic reminiscent of the back-and-forth F-M/Stanton battle a couple of years back. While Lexy Larsen, Mac Daffer, Kenzie Hulsing, et al, certainly pulled out their utmost to lead Sidney to a first-ever tournament title, it was Maryn Phillips – a Nish transfer just unleashed from the mandatory waiting period – that made the difference.
Full disclosure, I missed most of the boys’ third-place game Saturday night, but it would QuikStats appear that Weston Copperstone, Noah Richter and junior Jordan Childers off the bench did their utmost to ensure past the first quarter that the Wolverines firmly solidified their rightful position. In the championship game, though the baseline bulk of Brady Johnson and Alex Bechtold had brought the Vikings thus far, the sniper skills of senior David Sorenson and freshman Drake Johnson took them over the top to a hard-fought 48-44 hardware-hauling victory.
As with the girls’ tourney crescendo, it was a masterpiece of two teams using all their tools to try and eke out an all-important win.
But, ultimately, one that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. At least not the beans the bean-counters are counting.
A week ago tonight, many of us were heading out to those same high schools and assorted public meeting places to participate in the Iowa caucuses, the first actual voting events of an already overlong presidential campaign season. The media run-up to Iowa’s moment in the political spotlight had been a mixture of hyperbole and hyper bowl-of-Grape Nuts, swaying violently between how important the first-in-the-nation contest is and how quaint, mundane, arcane and an electoral oddity the process might be.
I think I get it. The coasts and large metropolitan areas love to flex their earthiness every now and throw the corn-bound country folk a bone, but are essentially more eager to move forward to events of greater perceived import. Cynical I am, but in the last week coin flips, miscounts and leaderless precincts have become media mocking points on the weird, hokey happenings of the Hawkeye State’s electoral initiative.
If you’ve come this far, stick with me a bit more because here comes the admittedly long-armed allusion…
This little conference of ours, with its antiquated addiction to tradition in an age of increasingly big picture athletic philosophy (Camps! Clubs! State! Scholarships!) is kinda the same. Sure, we embrace those elements of planning and preparing for success, but unlike the sophisticated, single goal-oriented big schools, we cling to what seems an illogical, unnecessary, anti-intuitive week of fierce competition among ourselves.
It just doesn’t make sense, they would say. Why risk injury, fatigue of the physical, psychological or emotional sense, and a potential, inconsequential blow to the collective ego that these non-regular-season-counting contests bring? Also in the last week (or so), the Trojanettes rebounded from their tournament title game loss to overcome the Cowgirls on a last-seconds layup from Elevatin’ Daiton Martin and cinch the Corner season championship and the F-M boys figured out a full-game formula to solve the Stanton equation in a 60-54 third-time charmer.
It’s hard to say exactly what role the tournament losses played in the ensuing avengings, but it’s safe to assume passion was a big part of the pre-game planning for both the Essex girls and the Knights. What coach worth his or her salt wouldn’t esprit up the corps by invoking the unfortunate results of a night when every one of your friends, family and community members were on-site, in-seat but had to settle for consolation instead of jubilation? No matter that it didn’t matter in the greater athletisphere, it matters and has for generations in the place you call home and among the people you call neighbors.
The Iowa caucuses might not, in the final, general analysis, matter. Particularly on the Republican side, the last three have produced “winners” that went on to dejection rather than election. Among the Democrats, some have seemingly gained a bit of momentum from the opening night “W,” but it’s impossible to say if the same wouldn’t have been achieved from New Hampshire’s more typical primary a week later or from larger states slightly down the road that are certainly more demographically similar to the country as a whole.
Still, the process and the passion are what lingers in the hearts of those who participated and that, to my way of thinking, is what truly matters most in the long run. Standing in the presence of, and often aligned against, your neighbors, fiercely competing issues of real, daily significance, but doing so with respect, dignity and attention to the rules - even as you sometimes learn them on the fly – is high expression of not only democracy but an elevated sense of humanity. This is not just walking into a booth to anonymously, silently select a few circled to scribble in, this is advanced citizenry and it is A) exhilarating and B) deeply satisfying.
I hope the kids who come away from the Corner Conference tournaments, winners or not, feel half as good and take away half as much from a similar something that seemingly shouldn’t matter but, to me, means everything in the world.