Sports

I hear winning isn't everything . . .

What's the value of winning a high school state championship?

It's a subject of much debate lately, with multiple plans to reclassify private schools or even whether we should have championships at all in the current budget crunch.

Since you are reading this column in the sports section, or found it on the sports page of Kansas.com, I'm going to make the bold assumption you're a sports fan, and would tend to think the idea of eliminating championships, even for a couple of years, as a semi-ridiculous idea.

So let's move on to the debate of public vs. private school classification.

Various proposals are before the Kansas State High School Activities Association to reclassify private schools in some fashion because of the perception they are too dominant in sports.

As a former high school athlete in Michigan — and go ahead and try to guess which sport from that awesome mug shot accompanying this column — I never won a state title. Never was really close to winning a state title at all.

So from personal experience, I can't speak as to how winning a state title might have changed my life.

I worked hard in track and cross country (not the sports you were thinking of, eh? Well, I'll have you know my metabolism slowed down since high school. Way, way down. And there might have been a lot of fast food and adult beverages, too). I enjoyed running. I loved meets and the competition of it.

We were good, but not state-championship level good.

After high school, I never thought about how we might have been penalized by competing against private schools. In reality, there were plenty of public schools alone that effectively ensured were weren't winning anything significant.

When I moved to Kansas, I covered a lot of high school sports.

The first thing that struck me was: boy, we have a lot of championships for a state with a third the population of the one I grew up in. I didn't really understand how there was much difference between Class 6A and 5A schools, or between Class 4A and 3A.

It used to bother me we had so many championships. I'd think we're just watering down what it means to win a title.

Since then, I've mellowed in my opposition to the way Kansas high schools compete.

It doesn't bother me as much that it only takes five wins to take a state basketball title.

Or that we give a trophy for the bi-district runner-up in football.

Or even that there are two eight-man football champions.

Why not?

Because I realized the kids don't care. Their knowledge of the history of high school sports is usually limited to the time frame starting with Day 1 of their freshman year, and concluding with graduation.

Wichita West was a football power? That's news to most high school kids.

The state's best female basketball player came from the tiny town of Claflin? If you say so.

Michael Jordan played his high school all-star basketball game in Wichita and wasn't even the game's MVP? Who knew — aside from Aubrey Sherrod's family?

So changing the number of championships, or the manner by which we determine a school's classification, really won't matter in the long run.

To the kids, they'll still be excited to win, and disappointed if they lose. That won't change.

They'll be unlikely to remember whether it was a private or a public school they beat or lost to.

If they're from Johnson County, they'll probably be unable to figure out where exactly that "Wichita" team was from.

Aside from that, kids just want to play the next team on their schedule. Let them have that, and most would be happy to leave the debate on social and economic ramifications of public vs. private competition to the adults who long, long ago stepped away from the athletic realm.

Now, let's move on to the really important issue facing sports: Did we really need to have powder blue Royals hats?

Run 'n' Gun is The Eagle Sports staff's weekly look at the offbeat side of sports.

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