Last night, my high school alma mater, York (Nebraska) High, snapped a twenty-one game losing streak by convincingly defeating Schuyler. The Dukes have fallen on hard times in recent years but when I was little, the men in Buff and Blue were perennially one of the best squads in the Cornhusker State. Losing games is common- one team is behind at the end of each contest. When a team goes years without winning, it becomes newsworthy. The following is from September 5, 2006.
Unless you live in Tennessee, you probably haven't heard of Red Boiling Springs. A village in Macon County, RBS as it is known, was founded in the 1830's around mineral springs believed to have healing qualities. With a population of only slightly more than one thousand, Red Boiling Springs offers visitors a chance to relax and escape the commotion of city life. There was an article last week on the website of The Tennessean, Nashville's daily newspaper, about a segment of life in RBS. The feature wasn't in the Living section: it was in the high school sports pages, inspired by the RBS High School football team. While fans throughout the US gear up for another season of supporting their favorites, the RBS Bulldogs have the distinction of having one of the worst records in the country. The young men in red and silver are in the midst of a thirty-nine game losing streak, dating back to 2002. There is tradition behind the current skid. A decade ago, Red Boiling Springs dropped sixty-nine consecutive contests, perilously close to the all-time high school record of eighty-two losses in a row, held by a Georgia school. As I read the piece by Tennessean writer Tom Kreager, I was struck not by a sense of despair but a feeling of optimism. The team is coached by Tony Boles, a former RBS gridder himself. Hampered by a brutal schedule, limited numbers of boys who try out, and having only one paid assistant, Boles remains confident that he can turn the fortunes of his squad around. (The demographics of RBS show the population is 58% female, perhaps explaining the smaller number of football hopefuls.) It isn't that the community hasn't had its share of athletic success. The high school basketball teams, particularly the girls, have a rich tradition. As a former coach in that region, I can attest to the fact that the citizens of Red Boiling Springs are zealous in suppporting their youngsters in athletic endeavors. Boles is a realist. He speaks of maybe winning one, possibly two games this season and rallying the town behind his kids. I've looked at the schedule and from what I remember about the respective teams, they have a chance. It's been a rough start for the RBS eleven. Two games have seen the Bulldogs outscored by a combined total of 84-0 but there are eight yet to play. Next up:
Friday, September 8: Home versus Grace Christian
I have great respect for the Tony Boles of the profession, the men and women who take what are perceived as dead end jobs. It would be easy for Boles to mail in an effort and go through the motions but he isn't taking the easy road. He is fighting insurmountable odds to give a bunch of kids a chance to taste a modest measure of success. How do you think those kids reacted to the publicity that came with the article in the largest paper in the state? Or knowing that teams line up to play the Bulldogs, assuming it will be an easy W? Boles knows what he is up against. He isn't scaling the ladder; he's a local from the community trying desperately to get the program to where some might actually call it respectable. There were guys in the Bible with similar backgrounds to Tony Boles- prophets. They were met with hostility and indifference. They were persecuted and at times they lived life on the run. They must have felt their labors were in vain. And yet, they made a difference, although not always immediately apparent. Their influence came through the words they spoke and wrote, relaying messages from heaven that frequently fell on deaf ears. But they kept on and Jesus would praise them during his time on earth. Their won-loss record might not have been gaudy but they got a promotion in the end. It's called heaven. I'm not nominating Tony Boles for sainthood or pushing him for the high school hall of fame but a victory this season would be an acceptable reward. Sometimes, we take the wins wherever we find them, no matter how small they might seem to the outside world.
UPDATE: Red Boiling Springs' streak reached 61 before the Bulldogs beat Oakdale in August of 2009.
Applicable quote of the day:
"There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that lost by not trying."
Sir Francis Bacon
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