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REAL LIFE AND SPORTS: MORE THAN A GAME

via northbendbulldogs.org

via northbendbulldogs.org

The hardest moments in real life come with saying goodbye.

There’s never a last goodbye, and never enough time.

We say goodbye to people and places, moms and dads, and it’s all too real.

Celebrated coaches from high school years move on, or you move on, and you hear about their passing.

You remember them with your classmates, then go to their memorial and see the huge crowd.

They had the same effect on others that they had on you. And it’s a surprise.

Saying goodbye to a feeling is different. Sure it’s just a feeling, like any other, but when it relates to sports it comes out of the blue.

Grow up in a small town and everything looks bigger on the outside. That’s when you get slammed by the size of the human heart, your heart.

For the fifth year in a row the North Bend Bulldog football team won their conference. Call them a dynasty and you wouldn’t be wrong.

Just the word dynasty eases the shame and guilt players from the early 1970’s have carried with them, including yours truly.

Three years of varsity ball from ’71-’73 netted few wins. The old Bulldogs were winless in the first two years, scoring four wins in the last.

The learning curve during the ’71 and ’72 death marches proved to the attentive players that no matter the effort they couldn’t win on their own.

One of those players was Robin Richards, a senior in 1971.

Over the summer he collected a wrestling medal for second place at that year’s Junior World Championship in Japan. He added it to the pile he won after the 1970 wrestling season where he was a Triple Crown winner.

Gold medals in folk style, freestyle, and Greco-Roman hung in his house. So did National Champion medals and awards for being the nation’s top wrestler in any weight class.

As a football player he was as big a loser as his teammates. No victories for the Brown and Gold his senior year.

It was tough, but had to be tougher on such an accomplished athlete. This was a kid who’d traveled to New Zealand and South Africa on Cultural Exchange trips and beat everybody.

He was a mentor for other wrestlers, but during football season he struggled like the rest of us.

High school teammates joined an enormous crowd at his memorial service to say goodbye.

Robin Richards was a winner in life as a school teacher and it rubbed off.

The Bulldogs of the past five years have better football memories than the teams of the early 70’s. Their reunions will bring back The Catch, The Run, The Tackle.

Most of all the kids will have the experience of their last regular season game against their arch rivals. The Marshfield Pirates of Coos Bay stomped the early 70’s Bulldogs in embarrassing fashion. Some of the scores were worse than blowouts.

The Oregon Duck football program wasn’t anything like it is today, so losing miserably seemed almost normal.

Players from the losing seasons left with the sort of raw truth you can’t find anywhere. They weren’t good enough and no one seemed to care. Their wills were broken and it didn’t really matter. Isn’t that real life enough?

Friday night the Pirates had the conference title with a win. Didn’t happen. The Bulldogs went into the Pirates’ den and turned it into a dog house.

Today there’s a winning glow on their shiny helmets. The ‘Dogs even play on a turf field.

With their run of conference titles, it’s time for all Bulldogs to lay down any grief left over from their playing days. The hometown team has given salvation to those who need it.

The young guys don’t know it, but we’re all sharing their joy. We drove and ran North Bend streets with a dark cloud over us. No one needs more clouds in a cloudy place.

After this season the forecast is clear and bright for the playoffs. We can finally say goodbye to a darker time.

Somewhere Robin Richards and Dave Abraham and former Head Coach Howard Johnson are sharing the joy of Bulldog Football.

 

 

About David Gillaspie

Comments

  1. Mickey McCreery says:

    Well done Bulldog! I enjoyed the game and your blog.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Hey Mickey,

      Thanks for the good words. There’s something about sports, and the lasting feeling of competing, that drives people to try and do better. The game’s over, the season past, but the urge to get it right one more time lasts and lasts.

      What is your favorite moment? I had one last night watching the Cowboys and Redskins, er, Washington team.

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