Champions don’t make excuses

Published 9:55 am Friday, January 30, 2015

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In September, two prominent football teams were left for dead.

My alma mater, The Ohio State University Buckeyes, suffered an embarrassing loss to Virginia Tech at home, and looked to be out of the conversation for the national championship just two weeks into the season.

The New England Patriots had also been cast aside by the national media after an awful 2-2 start, which culminated in a 41-14 beatdown at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

With those devastating losses, there was nothing these teams could do for the rest of the season to be considered among the game’s elite. We might as well have just handed Florida State its second-consecutive crystal football and chiseled a bust in Canton, Ohio, for the former All-Pro quarterback named Tom Brady.

A funny thing happened after we overreacted to a few games so early in the season, though, especially in a sport that now features a win or go home playoff format at every level.

Ohio State, under the leadership of backup quarterback J.T. Barrett, would finish the remainder of the regular season unbeaten and in the hunt for playoff positioning. When Barrett went down prior to the conference championship, third string — yes, third string — quarterback Cardale Jones would guide the Buckeyes to the school’s eighth national championships with drubbings of Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.

Brady, meanwhile, just capped off a win in his ninth AFC Championship Game, a feat that seemed improbable in September. This Sunday, he’ll look to hoist the Lombardi trophy for a fourth time, as the Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

Two common themes stand out for both programs, or franchises.

The first is everyday improvement. Whether affected by early-season losses, injuries or inexperience, the Buckeyes and Patriots put their best foot forward each day to work toward their respective championship aspirations. They didn’t make excuses about their early-season struggles, losing their Heisman Trophy caliber quarterback for the season or lack of weapons, but continued to get better with each practice and game. By the end of the season, they were — or are — playing their best ball of the season.

I do understand that these teams compete at a level much higher than that of the schools within Western Tidewater; that’s more than obvious. However, there are a number similarities between the aforementioned teams and some of basketball squads that have woefully underperformed since I started writing for The Tidewater News.

Some have dealt with injuries to their top athletes; others have the difficulty of giving several freshman and sophomores significant minutes each time they take the floor. Another struggles with the concept of playing as a team.

So then what is the problem, you may ask? When I first began my coverage of the local sports teams, some readers believed that I was being too harsh and taking sports too seriously. With that said, my problem is simply with the standard at which the school board, athletic directors, parents and/or fans hold these the coaches accountable.

As few hold their coaches to a higher standard than the fan bases of the Buckeyes and Patriots, therein lies the second key. I believe that the same should be said of local schools in order to achieve success.

As someone who talks to these coaches and attends games on a fairly consistent basis, I have not seen an improvement within several programs from the beginning of the season, and — as I’ve been told — this is nothing new.

In fact, every time I speak with certain coaches, the story is the same thing. They claim to be improving, but continue to be beat by 40 points each night. Such losses are not satisfactory, nor should the ineptitude of the coaching staffs be accepted. I’m not calling for any coach to be fired or reprimanded; I am, quite simply, calling upon the readers to strive for more than mediocrity and hold their coaches accountable until they’re reaching new levels of success.

ANDREW LIND is a staff writer for The Tidewater News. He can be contacted at 562-3187 or