Monday, March 23, 2009

The Brotherhood

Tonight I attended the athletic awards ceremony for the high school at which my  husband coaches the boys and girls basketball teams.  It's a very, very small school--Class D here in Michigan, and under 70 students total.  I listened as my husband spoke at length about the teams.  Most striking was not stories detailing victories during the season, or an individual's performance, but rather him speaking from the heart about "the brotherhood."  He said that it was a sense of brotherhood that he prized most in coaching, not Xs and Os, not championships, not triple-doubles, not scoring titles.  I watched him choke with genuine emotion as he told of bonding with players, hoping they would come back and mentor younger players after they've graduated--which countless numbers of them have done year after year.

It made me think of the professional leagues, and whether there is such a thing as brotherhood at that level.  I'd like to think there is, despite the mandate to win, despite the pecuniary interests of owners, broadcast entities and players.  There are many times when it seems that's all there is to pro sports--the $.  Owners raising tickets prices during tough economic times.  A merry-go-round of players who do not stay with one team, but follow money like a heat-seeking missile.  General managers trading away a fan favorite for the flavor of the month.

But then there are moments like after the Tigers won the 2006 ALDS, when players emerged from the clubhouse to share the victory with the fans, spraying them liberally with champagne, running around the the ballpark high-fiving eager revelers, sharing the unadulterated joy.  There's the player who takes a few extra moments to sign an autograph and encourage a young child, who stands awestruck in the presence of his or her hero.  There are players who give the home-town discount to stay with a club they've come to feel as home, with fans who give the keys to the city to these loyal sons.

I think there is a brotherhood.  If there wasn't, I think professional sports would dry up and stadiums would stand empty.  I know that teammates, coaches and staff share in a brotherhood to which we fans are not privy.  But I sure appreciate when they crack the door and give us a glimpse.


Kurt said...

I don't know if there is always that brotherhood at the pro level, but not being in the clubhouse, I don't know if we'd ever know. But some teams definitely have it.

And congrats to your husband (and you!) for surviving coaching both girls and boys teams with the seasons merged like they were. That's got to be hugely time consuming and tiring. I know a lot of coaches at the schools in the UP who coached both had to decide between one or the other, though I think a couple chose neither and just retired rather than choose.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a brotherhood or at least some form of that sort of thing. It could be a brotherhood between an individual player and the game of baseball. There has to be something or how would so many people stick with baseball in the face of $250M contracts and steroids? There's something there, unless you're Gary Sheffield.