By Ryan Divish
As I walked across the field at Blue Pony Stadium on Saturday afternoon, I heard something that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
It was that "we are proud of you" cheer that the Pony parents, fans and students were yelling to the players.
To be honest, I never liked that cheer much. Maybe it was because I always associated it with losing. That's when you would always hear it. It's a cheer that says, "Hey, you lost, but we're still proud of you."
As competitive as I was and still am, I didn't take losing very well and that cheer offered me no solace.
After losing, your mind frantically races back through the game examining how the outcome could have been changed in your favor. That is most evident in football, where a close loss could be changed simply by one tackle, one yard or, as the case with Levi Briese's attempt at a two-point conversion, one inch.
Football differs from most sports because of the limited number of games. Havre played a total of 11 games this season, but the season was much longer than 11 weeks. So much time, effort and preparation goes into one single game. It makes losing any game unbearable.
When you're a senior, losing the last game of the season just multiplies the pain. Ten years ago as I walked off the field, I knew I would probably never wear football pads again, never Blue Pony pads for certain.
It was a feeling of total despair and loneliness because no matter how many teammates surround you, you realize that the world as you know it is changing at a rate faster than any football player can run. The end of the season marks the first of many things that come to an end during your senior year.
When it ends, it's tough to think about anything else for at least a couple of days. The last thing you ever want to do is cry on a football field, but that moment is so powerful it reduces the toughest kid to tears. It hurts so much, you don't even care that people see you crying.
Maybe that's why that little voice inside of me told me to hold off congratulating the players on a good game and an even better season.
It will have been a couple of days when this comes out. I know the players won't have completely forgotten the loss. They never will. But hopefully some of the initial pain has numbed.
So now, I would like to congratulate the 2002 Havre Blue Ponies on an outstanding season.
There is nothing that I could write that could make you feel any better about losing on Saturday. There is nothing anybody could write, not Shakespeare or Robert Frost. It hurts and it will still hurt to think about it 10 years from now.
But win or lose, you should be proud of your accomplishments. You played in a game that hundreds of players who wore the Pony crest only dreamed of. Making it to the state championship is an accomplishment itself. More importantly you played with heart, intensity and passion while showing grace, dignity and sportsmanship in defeat.
You have no reason to hang your heads. Instead, be proud of your accomplishments. As you could tell on Saturday, there were plenty of people who were proud of you.
Covering sports, you meet a wide variety of people with a range of personalities. Some are good and some are bad. Some are so bad that you actually want them to lose.
But others are so good and genuine that you secretly pray for them to win as if God actually cared about sports.
That's how I would describe this year's Ponies. Many occasions George and I found ourselves unabashedly cheering for them when we are supposed to remain unbiased.
Head coach Troy Purcell and his staff took a group of quality kids and molded them into a quality team. They showed class on and off the field. It definitely made George's job and my job much more enjoyable this season.
As for the other upcoming sports seasons, and next year's football season, I hope for continued success. I also hope you never have to hear the "we are proud of you" cheer again.