Now that we have crowned our final winter award winner on this blog, given the events of the past week and the last three months, I feel compelled to offer up a little commentary.
Please keep in mind before reading on that, even though it might seem so at times, I genuinely don’t mean this to be self-serving in any way.
The idea for the Player and Team of the Week awards was first hatched about a year and a half ago, as a way to recognize the accomplishments of the teams and players in the FCIAC, at a time where there are fewer forums to do so. The response has been terrific: everyone appreciates to be patted on the back, even if only on a blog, and the athletes, thanks to the support of BlueStreak Sports Training, Garden Catering and, my employer, the Stamford Advocate, enjoy receiving the T-shirts.
Our weekly team awards and end of year awards are decided on a vote. We try to keep it fair. We also try to keep it fun.
Only sometimes, most recently this week, the voting goes beyond fun and is taken a little too seriously. People try to hack into the vote — we set up safeguards. People try to promote their favorite teams and players by disparaging others. Given what we hear and read about in the world of high school athletics these days, it should come as no surprise. But no attempted good deed goes unpunished.
We will start our spring awards next week, and I have no doubt these issues will arise again. But the reason behind this commentary is to bring to light the two things this has all caused me to contemplate since early January.
First, the kids for the most part get it. Often times much more than the adults.
During the first week a number of readers criticized the Wilton gymnastics team for being a finalist because — they are gymnasts. How did the Wilton team respond? By congratulating the winners on their efforts and to send along their appreciation for being considered.
When Danbury’s Maya Walton, a phenomenal track athlete, lost a close vote for Player of the Year, she sent in a note expressing how it was nice to see so many voters offering their support.
And this past week, when there were accusations made that both the New Canaan girls hockey and Danbury boys track teams were trying to stuff the ballot box, the coaches and players on both sides didn’t go into a defensive posture. Both sides were willing to disqualify themselves to avoid the appearance of a tainted victory. Alex Levine of the Hatters, our Male Player of the Year, sent in a classy note expressing that sentiment. I told Rich Bulan, the New Canaan coach, about it. Bulan asked for Levine’s email address and intends to write to him.
We have a liberal policy about printing comments, putting up everything as long as they are written in an appropriate manner and without profanity. Any comments knocking a high school athlete never see the light of day. Unfortunately, these acts of dignity by the athletes also go underneath the radar. I thought it was important to share them.
We also wanted to make these awards all-inclusive, shining the spotlight on players in all sports, from all teams. One benefit that I did not realize is that it has made be better at my job. Basketball and hockey get most of the attention over the winter. Without having to stay current on all sports, would I have known about the exploits of Wilton gymnast Chelsea LeVander? Or how dominant Levine and Walton are? Honestly, I cannot say for sure.
Our last weekly winner was the state champion Danbury cheerleading team. Their sport is polarizing in the sense that many people don’t consider it a sport. I knew that cheerleading consists of a lot more than just sparking the crowd from the sidelines on fall Friday nights and at basketball games. Thanks to two of the Hatters’ stars, Cara Seckinger and Alison Haber, I’ve learned that cheerleading goes well beyond what most perceive, so much so that I plan on doing a blog post with them next week. I think you’ll be impressed.
What really impresses is that everyone mentioned in this post is a far better person than athlete, which is saying something.
Just as I learned more about the area sports world over the past three months — the past 18 really — it is most important that I hope readers have also. That is the whole reason for this endeavor.
Getting to know these kids better, it makes me feel a lot better about our future knowing the contributions they will make to society.
That is far more important than any votes on a blog.