“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” – Charles R. Swindoll
As I stood there in the mist and the rain at tonight’s practice, it was evident that the Niagara Storm Junior Varsity players were all feeling good about themselves. They were loose, they were alert, but most of all, they were having fun – everything that worries a coach right before a big game.
But the players had it right. When they arrive at Nelson Stadium this upcoming Sunday afternoon (game starts at 2:30) to take on the crown jewel of the Ontario Football Conference – the Burlington Stampeders, the JV Storm will be taking on a team that is arguably the best in the entire Province. After winning their first game by a score of 73-0 against the Guelph Bears, the popular website CanadaFootballChat.com posted an article declaring as much.
“Burlington is the best,” so said a panel of over 20 different amateur sportswriters and scouts from throughout Ontario. It reminded me of those exact same so-called “experts” in the world of mixed martial arts, who are constantly debating their subjective and unsubstantiated opinions on who they feel are the top-ranked and best pound-for-pound fighters in the entire world. And yet, they’ll all be the first ones to admit that on any given day, any fighter can beat another.
Well…that just happens to be how I personally feel about football. Every team, no matter how good they might be, can be beaten under the right set of circumstances.
From my observation – and not to take anything away from Burlington, because I absolutely respect them as a team and as an organization, but I think it actually hurts a group of players that are as young as they are, to garner so much praise and attention so early on in the season. I mean, seriously…one game into the season and they’re already being touted as the greatest team in the entire Province? The “People’s Champion” of youth football, if you will?
So then what? Seven games remaining in the regular season and the rest of us are all supposed to believe that we’re just playing for second place because a bunch of media guys said so?
If it helps, I’d just like to point out that the Burlington Varsity team was also ranked on a CFC ‘Top 10’ list in the number nine position, and they just lost to the Hamilton Hurricanes last week, who somehow never managed to crack the ‘Top 10’ according to, what I like to refer to as, the “weathermen” of the journalistic community.
The Weatherman: How great it must be to have a job where you can be wrong almost every single day, and still be able to keep your job. Anyway, I digress…
According to several other social media outlets this week, Burlington is a team that is to be feared by their competitors. They’re a team that’s going to easily beat the Storm, and they can’t be stopped. How do I know all of this? Easy – they’re supporters keep telling me this, as if somehow, from a psychological standpoint, myself and/or my players are all going to actually start believing it. Then again, maybe they’re just trying to convince themselves.
In any case, there’s a reason why the Storm players were so loose and relaxed at practice tonight and it’s not because they were feeling over-confident about their chances, or because they weren’t taking this game seriously enough (only being able to score six offensive points in two games has a way of humbling a team), and it most definitely isn’t because they were scared at the notion of having to play Ontario’s best – quite the opposite in fact. I’ve been around the majority of these players long enough throughout the years to know that they don’t get intimidated by any team or any player. They have no reason to.
It’s because deep down, they all know that the real pressure rests solely on the shoulders of the Stampeders. If the Storm waltz into Burlington this weekend and lose, everyone will say, “See, we told you so. Burlington is the best!” And maybe they’d be right.
But imagine if the Storm were to upset Burlington. At home, nonetheless! Then what?
Do you think CanadaFootballChat.com would immediately write another article, announcing that the Niagara Storm are the new hands-down, greatest JV team in the entire Province?
I’d say that’s pretty unlikely. If anything, I’m sure there would be a lot of “experts” out there who would immediately chalk it up to being a fluke win – because they apparently know everything.
The reality is that the Niagara Storm have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain in this situation. Plus, they believe they can win, so no matter how you try to analyze it, that makes the Storm a very dangerous team indeed.
Sure they’re the underdog, but our players wouldn’t want it any other way.
“When you’ve got something to prove, there’s nothing greater than a challenge.” – Terry Bradshaw
May the best team win. See you Sunday!