Hope in the worst of times

By Brandon Bush

 

I won’t lie, I have a lot of fun doing this job.

Life isn’t perfect, but I find it hard to complain when I get to cover football, or whichever sport is in season, for a living. While it is my journalistic duty to be an unbiased news source, I can’t help but silently rejoice when the Putnam War Eagles or the Gatewood Gators find success and, conversely, quietly share a bit of their pain when they fall.

Needless to say, losing has caused more than just pain for the War Eagle baseball squad; it’s been full-on agony.

Before its Tuesday game with Social Circle, Putnam had crawled to 2-19 and winless in the region on the heels of a seven-inning, 16-2 throttling from Mount de Sales. Its only two wins of the season both came from the equally weak Glascock County.

Almost worse than its record is the manner in which it’s been losing. Sadly for the Eagles, their defeats have come on both ends of the spectrum as they have lost games by large deficits (such as the Mount de Sales game, their worst loss yet) and squandered leads and missed opportunities (i.e. having a 1-0 lead on Athens Christian before losing 2-1 in extra innings).

When the team’s season ends on Friday after facing strong region opponent Elbert County in a doubleheader, it will no doubt be an especially sad moment as the Eagles will have to live with the dark cloud of their rough season over their head. With a season this unfortunate, the worst thing the Eagles can do going forward is hang their heads.

The good thing about sports is that, even in the darkest of times, the smallest glimmer of hope can be the x-factor in turning a new page.

To anybody on this Putnam baseball team – coaches, players and whoever else is involved – who feels like they’ve failed this season: you haven’t. During my sophomore year of high school, John Milledge Academy lost all 10 football games that season, including a 35-0 loss to our (now, but definitely not at the time) beloved Gatewood Gators.

It was terrible. It was depressing. It discouraged me going forward. I even started to hate playing football.

Yet, I stayed on the team and, while I never got to enjoy JMA’s powerhouse days, by senior year I got to be part of JMA’s first winning season in many years, arguably laying the foundation for the program it is today (my sophomore, junior and senior years were the first three of head coach J.T. Wall’s tenure at JMA).

I was involved in the greatest JMA football game of all time that year, too. Trailing Mount de Sales (still a GISA school at the time) 24-0 at halftime, we somehow recovered not one, but several onside kicks to mount an epic comeback and win 30-24 on senior night. My very last memory of football is one I will cherish forever: while losing soundly to Westfield in the first round of the state playoffs, sick as a dog and freezing, my final down of football was a quarterback sack.

Being on a struggling team is terrible and can burn you out in a heartbeat, but the reality of sports (and even life in general) is that you have to sweat before you celebrate.

If I had quit football after that 0-10 season, I would have given up so much: being on a winning team; the epic comeback over Mount de Sales (for the record, I loathe this school as much as you guys probably do – some wounds never heal); my cherished final play; setting the stage for the team’s future. There’s even the possibility I wouldn’t even be here or have a career in sports journalism.

I know I’ve been speaking at length about myself and not the team while also discussing another sport entirely, but my point is this: you guys had a bad year, but don’t let that ruin your passion for the sport you play. One day your hard work, dedication, blood, sweat, tears and will to compete will reward you whether it be on the field, in your life or both.

To those returning to the team next year, a whole new season begins after Friday. To those who are seniors and will be moving on, don’t think of 2018 as a pitiful swan song but rather as laying the first brick in the foundation of a new era for the team, one that will look back at you fondly and remember where it began its journey toward raising a state championship banner.

It’s the most annoying cliché any sports fan has ever heard, but it’s true: there is always next year, and when next year finally rolls around, I’ll be back to watch Putnam County win way more than two games.

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