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Ridin’ The Pine column: Nothing beats seeing tears after a game

Tuesday, Dec. 3 | By Jeff Malmgren
Former Kettle Run quarterback Carlos Vegerano and Cougars coach Jeff Lloyd embrace after losing during the 2012 Group AA state semfinals, 37-30, to James Monroe in triple overtime. --Fauquer Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Crying kids make me smile.

I can’t help it.

But I mean “kids” as it’s used in the sports world – the age 16-24 set. Those high school and college kids cry because they're overwhelmed by the pain of losing a meaningful game — which makes the postseason prime time for tears.

This month I got to see Kettle Run football players and Fauquier volleyball players cry, and it was great. Sure, a big win elicits some pure emotion, but it’s nothing like the uncontrollable sobbing that a season-ending loss can cause, especially for a senior.

Those tears are testament to just how much sports mean to people. I mean, how many times will a 16-year old boy cry over the rest of his life? Maybe at a funeral, at his wedding, at the birth of his child. That’s the company that sports keep in peoples’ hearts.

Which is why it irritates me when, in times of tragedy, people diminish the importance of sports. Tragedy, they pronounce, makes you put things in perspective, reevaluate your priorities and realize how trivial these games really are.

That’s trite prattling. Sports are something people look forward to playing and watching. They’re a reason to live, and a way to enjoy life.

They’re also a great social facilitator that creates strong bonds between teammates. That’s why the “We’re a family” cliché is so prevalent for sports teams. The athletes spend so much time together, with incredible shared effort, that they naturally develop love for each other.

And that’s why it hurts so much for seniors to lose the final contests of their careers. They know they’re not just losing a game, they’re breaking up a family. That entire group of people will likely never be together again.

Kettle Run’s Evan Szklennik, for example, watched last football season as some of his senior teammates, like quarterback Carlos Vegerano, cried following a postseason loss to James Monroe.

Szklennik felt their pain first hand Friday when his senior season ended, also with a loss to James Monroe.

“Flashbacks to when I see Carlos in coach’s arms,” he said. “Last year, I never thought it’d feel this way. I couldn’t imagine.

“Now I know,” he said.

That reminds me of one of my favorite sports memories: watching the Maryland women’s basketball team lose in the Elite Eight of the 2009 NCAA tournament. With about one minute remaining in a 77-60 loss to Louisville, a sub entered the game for Marissa Coleman, a Maryland senior.

Coleman couldn’t even make it off the court before she started sobbing. By the time she made it into the arms of her coach, Brenda Frese, she was nearly convulsing.

I smiled.

But I also almost cried myself.

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