Winning or losing: The movable feast

Hate them or love them, you should feel happy for the Northwest Missouri football team.

Except if you're a Pittsburg State fan, I suppose. That's forgivable.

The Bearcats had lost in four straight NCAA Division II title games, winning in their fifth attempt on Saturday in Florence, Ala., with a 30-23 victory over Grand Valley State.

After championship games — and NW Missouri has played this role well the last four years — the loser always says he wouldn't trade the experience of making it to the title game for anything, win or lose.

Lies, lies, lies.

Talk to anyone who's ever lost in a title game — regardless of sport. That hole it splits in your heart is irreplaceable. You can play a whole career and the games, in your memory, become just a mish-mash of "oh yeah we won/lost, I guess I played great/OK/terrible."

But big games? Title games? You remember the smell of the locker room. You remember the songs the band played. You remember every ... single... play.

You'll carry it with you to the day you die.

The flipside of all that, however, is why you keep going back. It's what put the Bearcats back in the title game for the fifth straight year.

Winning in a title game grants you something, some kind of pass to, at random times the rest of your life (usually when you run into old teammates), act as if you're young again. To elevate "remember when" to the highest form of conversation.

That's priceless.

Retention — I spent last weekend on a junior-college bowl tour, hitting Hutchinson and then Pittsburg for a couple of games, and I came away with one indelible fact: Sportswriters can quote amazing amounts of movie lines.

In a completely random occurrence, both the Hutchinson News' Brad Hallier and the Pittsburg Morning Sun's Matthew Clark recited the same passage of "Major League" — where Cleveland Indians catcher Jake Taylor berates a Yankee hitter about the whereabouts of the batter's wife on the night before.

It's a lengthy passage, and when heard live it's better than dinner theater.

Old-fashioned, white-hot hatred of the other team If there's ever a moment that warms my heart at the end of every college football season, it's when I see the Linfield (Ore.) football team has lost it's final game, just as it did Saturday, falling to Wisconsin-Whitewater in the NCAA Division III semifinals.

Here's Linfield's thing: They've got a bunch of cash. That's it. They muscle the other small-colleges in the area into being guaranteed home games for them, returning the favor once every three or four years. And then they expect said schools to be happy about it.

I have the distinct privilege of playing on the team that handed them the worst home loss in school history: 40-10 in 1999. That's a big loss, to a state school, Southern Oregon University.

When I need to go to a happy place, that's always my first choice.