Column: How quickly they forget
Published 5:44 am Friday, October 22, 2004
Sports fans are notorious for their short-term memories. In sports, more than any other portion of society, it seems people are obsessed with the here and now. "What have you done for me lately?" is all fans want to know.
As the high school football season reaches its end tonight, with neither Niles or Brandywine qualifying for the postseason, the schools have felt the effects of their fans' fickleness.
Both Niles' head coach Dave Janicki and Brandywine head coach Terry Borr will be the first to admit their teams have had off years. Both schools have 2-6 records heading into tonight's final game. But each suffered a severe drop off of talent from last season's team and needs patience from fans, parents and the community.
Niles fans have come down especially hard on the Vikings. This year's team, which has earned just one victory, the other came by forfeit, is a far cry from the Vikings that made the playoffs each of the previous three years.
From 2001-2003, Niles fans were spoiled with success, something they weren't used to. Last year, the Vikings had their best season in school history, winning their first ever playoff game.
But now that the Vikings are losing and, at times, looking pretty bad in the process, fans are quick to jump off the bandwagon and eager to criticize the coaching staff.
The naysayers are the same people who were patting those coaches on the back last year after a 6-3 season, the ones who were so supportive when the Vikings were winning.
As Janicki put it, "They're with you win or tie."
In just one season, many Vikings fans have forgotten the success that Janicki and his staff have brought to Niles. They can't remember where the school's football program was at just five years ago, before Janicki's arrival.
In the 15 seasons before Janicki took over as head coach, 1985-99, Niles went a paltry 6-46 against opponents in its Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference West Division. In that time span, Benton Harbor was the only division school the Vikings beat multiple times (four). They beat Dowagiac and St. Joseph once each, and lost all seven games to Lakeshore.
In Janicki's tenure, 2000-present, Niles has gone 11-8 against those same opponents. If the Vikings win tonight against St. Joe, they will have twice as many division victories in the past five years as they had in the 15 years before Janicki.
More importantly, Niles has been named an MHSAA Academic All-State team every single season Janicki has been head coach. The Vikings never once had that distinction before he came to town. And they have an excellent shot at doing it for a fifth straight year.
This year is not a complete wash. If the Vikings beat the Bears tonight, they will finish with a respectable 2-2 record in a tough SMAC West Division. It will also be Niles' second consecutive victory to end the season, a good sign heading into next year.
Not only that, but the Vikings silenced some critics by thoroughly stomping arch-rival Dowagiac last week 39-0 in a near flawless performance.
Fans have to realize that your team can't make the playoffs every year. They must also realize that teams are going to have losing seasons. It's inevitable.
After what Janicki has done for Niles' football program, he deserves a little patience, understanding and support from his fair-weather fans.