Column: A quiet night at the gym

Published 4:11 pm Friday, January 20, 2006

By Staff
Last week, I wrote about how happy I was that Niles' wrestling team defeated Lakeshore.
The stands were packed, everyone was excited, it was just a very pleasant atmosphere to be in.
But last night's match between the Vikings and Benton Harbor was the complete opposite. It was actually very sad.
I had heard that the Tigers didn't have much of a team anymore. Well, they really didn't have one in the first place. But they lost most members to academic ineligibility just a few weeks ago.
I showed up to the gym about 6:15 p.m., figuring the match would start pretty early.
Indeed it did. The varsity match started at 6:30, following the two JV matches.
As the varsity teams were preparing for the match, the official came over and sat next to me. The first words out of his mouth were, “It's going to be a pretty short night.”
I just sat back and watched the Benton Harbor team as they warmed up. No expressions on their faces, probably embarrassed to only have seven members, compared to the swarm of Niles wrestlers waiting on the opposite side of the mat. It was very sad to watch them.
The gym was also pretty quiet for the 45 minutes the match lasted. Definitely not the Niles crowd I am used to seeing. Only a few students showed up and a handful of parents.
No one really cheered, they just chatted among each other, probably about the work week or the wonderful weather we have been seeing.
Then I looked at the visitors section and there was not one person there cheering on Benton Harbor…actually a family did show up halfway through the match…but that was it.
I felt so bad for these guys, knowing they get laughed at everywhere they go, knowing they don't have a chance at winning, knowing that people consider them a “waste of time.”
It's too bad because Benton Harbor has a lot of athletic talent coming out of that school.
Although there were plenty of other things I could have been doing, I was actually very happy that I showed up.
These guys probably don't get much of a crowd anywhere they go and I am sure their local papers don't cover them.
The whole scene last night was very upsetting, but I have to commend those guys for actually showing up for these matches.
They know what is going to happen when they show up with only five varsity wrestlers, yet they still get on the mat and do the job.
I just hope that one day this school can rise above all of its problems and can be competitive in every sport, not just basketball.
As I said above, there is a lot of talent in that school, a lot of kids have opportunities to go places, they just don't always have the support they need.
So, the next time you see a Benton Harbor team, don't laugh and make jokes at them. Instead, put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if that was your team standing with only seven members, no hope of winning and no fans in the stands to cheer you on? Your confidence would be pretty low.