Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 27, 2006, Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch

The best of times and the worst of times

By Matt Kane

As the month of February nears it end every year, so too does the high school winter sports season in Minnesota.

But, before draining the pools, stripping the courts, rolling up the mats or thawing the rinks, the athletes and teams that call these surfaces home from November to February, and some as late as March, get one last chance to prove themselves.

For, the death of the regular season means the berth of the new season – the playoffs.

“Playoffs!?!,” as former Indianapolis Colts head coach questioned after being asked about the postseason following a 40-21 loss to San Francisco Nov. 25, 2001.

Yes, coach Mora. Playoffs.

The time of season when heroes are made and hearts are broken.
In this mega-media world we are all too familiar with the reactions of today’s most popular athletes when they finally reach the biggest prize in their respective sports.

An hour of watching the Winter Olympic Games over the past two weeks and a viewer would need both hands and feet to count the number of close-ups showing ecstasy on a gold medal-winners face. Or that of disappointment on a fallen athletes face.

But the NBC cameras can’t capture the true feelings and raw emotions that go with winning and losing. Being there to feel and see the emotion is the only way to truly understand it. But it doesn’t have to be an international event such as the Olympics or a national game in the NBA or NHL.

As a sports writer for the past six years, I have found that the best displays of emotion come from the athletes who aren’t competing for a paycheck or an endorsement deal. The high school athlete.

Having played high school sports, myself, I have experienced the highs of winning and, as with most athletes, even more lows that come with losing.

I know what was going through the minds of L/DC’s Tucker Osterberg and Alex Euerle Saturday afternoon in Orono – both hesitating before leaving the bench for the postgame handshake with the team that just ended their season.

Just four days earlier the two defensemen were celebrating an upset win at New Prague.

At the Section 3A swimming and diving meet Friday and Saturday, some swimmers would eagerly jump out of the pool after qualifying for the state meet, while others sat and wondered how they could have made up a tenth of a second.

Maybe the best sport to see the gamut of emotions is high school wrestling.

These athletes, from the eighth graders all the way up to the seniors, literally give up a part of themselves for their sport.

All season long they work to cut weight, and, as seen in Saturday’s final round of the Section 5AA meet, one slip could mean the end of a career.

Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted/Lester Prairie 130-pounder, Clark Ostvig leaped for joy and aggressively hugged his backers in the crowd after winning the true second match for a state berth. While, just minutes later, teammate’s Shane Khan and Tyler Kloos left the mat with tears in their eyes after overtime losses.

Although neither Khan or Kloos will realize it immediately, the emotion they showed, along with Ostvig’s, is what makes the playoffs the playoffs.

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Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch