Sports from the fan’s perspective

Published 7:12 pm Friday, October 14, 2011

For the first time in nearly four years, I attended a high school sporting event not as a reporter or an unbiased observer, but as a fan.

It was Tuesday’s Class 5A, Area 5 volleyball tournament at Demopolis High School.

I took my pad with me to write down the scores. But that was the extent of my newspaper responsibilities for the two hours the decisive match between Demopolis and Selma was played out.

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For those two ours, I was a fan, an enthusiast and a husband.

I see a lot of high school athletes in my job. I cover a lot of teams in a lot of sports. But in nearly four years of doing this, I have never spent as much time around a team as I have the 2011 Demopolis High volleyball team.

I have been around the squad so much because my wife coaches the team. I know the players’ strengths. I know their deficiencies. I know their personalities and their tendencies.

I also knew going into Tuesday night how important winning an area title would be to the team, the program, and my wife.

So, Tuesday, I took off my reporter hat and put on my supporter hat as I went to watch Demopolis fight for a milestone in a sport that is largely an afterthought in the city.

Most of these girls were exposed to volleyball for the first time as middle school students. Some learned the game even later than that. They had no youth league to learn the fundamentals or help them develop their skills.

And because of those facts, the sport has suffered at the high school level in Demopolis.

None of that mattered Tuesday. The Demopolis High School team played like it didn’t know what it didn’t know. It played like it didn’t care what skills it was missing or how rudimentary its understanding of the game was. It fought for every point. It chased every ball. And it showed a genuine passion for something.

For at least one night, that was enough. For one night, the Demopolis High volleyball team was able to will itself to victory in the most important match of its season.

The team will play in a regional tournament at Briarwood Christian today in an effort to extend its season a little further.

Regardless of what happens in that tournament, if the team plays with the same heart and tenacity it displayed Tuesday, it will have successfully laid the final piece to program’s foundation.

It will have something to build upon. It will have a taste of something bigger than itself and, hopefully, the desire to experience more of it.

That’s what Tuesday night was about. That’s why I left the reporter’s hat at the office and rooted with fervor to see a team overcome itself, overcome its shortfalls and achieve something no player on that squad had ever experienced. That’s what being a fan is all about. And, for one night, I could not think of a better team for which to pull.