Sideline Slants

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
That’s why they play the game…



— For the record, I never doubted for a second that Tabor College would win another football game… by 2004. Frankly, Coach Tim McCarty had me believing Tabor might win a game this year…but Bethany?



— True confessions…. The day before the Tabor-Bethany game I figured the Bluejays would be lucky to stay within 30 points. I’ll gladly eat my words-as long as you write them in chocolate.



— What were the odds of Tabor beating Bethany in football this year? I haven’t talked to any Bible scholars about this, but it ranks as one of the biggest upsets since David beat Goliath.



— As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Tabor students showed remarkable restraint by not tearing down the goalposts.



There are at least two logical reasons. For one, some Tabor students had never witnessed a football victory and didn’t know what to do once they won. The rest probably knew the athletic program is on a shoestring budget and new goalposts aren’t in the budget.



— Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, the program is improving. There was no chance that Tabor would forfeit its homecoming game this year.



— I know that it’s the nature of coaches and players to believe that if they follow and execute the game plan, victory is possible. Still, I wonder how many Tabor football players and coaches honestly believed they would beat Bethany this season-especially after being soundly beaten by Bethel.



— Did anyone pick Tabor to defeat Bethany in the Free Press football contest? If so, why?



— If the win over Bethany didn’t help team morale, I don’t know what will. I just hope the team uses it as a springboard for bigger and better things.



Expectations just got a lot higher. It would be nice to get another couple of wins.



— I doubt many of the freshmen fully understand how unlikely it was that they beat Bethany.



— You have to be happy for the sophomores, juniors and seniors. They persevered through a long season last year and came back for another try.



It’s nice to see them succeed.



— You can’t help but be happy for Coach Tim McCarty and the entire coaching staff. Even the most optimistic coach needs to taste some success now and then.



— Discipline and sportsmanship matter, and a coaching staff makes a difference. I haven’t checked, but my hunch is that Tabor is getting flagged for far fewer personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties than in previous years.



— Here’s what one out-of-state Tabor alum had to say after Tabor beat Bethany: “I’d be willing to bet, although I wouldn’t know how to verify it, that there will be more e-mail messages between Tabor alums today than any previous day since Al Gore invented the Internet.”



— All the hoopla surrounding the shocking upset is understandable. On paper, there was no way Tabor should have beaten Bethany. But-and this is a big but-the game isn’t played on paper. It’s played on the field.



It’s humbling for heavily favored teams and encouraging for underdogs. If the best team won every game, there’s no need to suit up. That’s why they play the game, and that’s ultimately what makes athletic competition so compelling. On a given day, anything can happen. That also explains why coaches tend to have prematurely gray hair.



— Stranger things have happened than Tabor beating Bethany in football, but not many.



— For the first 25 minutes of the Tabor-Friends game, the Bluejays looked like the real deal. Then the wheels came off. In the last five minutes of the second quarter Tabor went from a 15-7 lead to a 36-15 deficit. Game, set, match. Ouch.



— As bad as the meltdown was, at least Tabor scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. It didn’t affect the outcome, but in the past Tabor wouldn’t have scored two late touchdowns when the game was all but over.



— I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but I predict Bethany will score more than seven points when the two teams meet again in Lindsborg next season.



— Bethel beat Tabor 54-7. Tabor beat Bethany 14-7. Bethany beat Bethel 31-7.



What’s wrong with this picture?



— I repeat, that’s why they play the game.

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