Luke Graham: Football and fairness
December 6, 2010
Steamboat Springs — We've all heard some form of the phrase: There isn't much in life that's fair.
In some regards, that's true.
But one of the best things about sports is that they eliminate most of life's unfairness. Those who put in work, develop chemistry, get some breaks and come together at the right time usually prosper.
Sports generally offer one of the fairest playing fields around. The best team usually wins, the best athletes usually prevail and, very often, games are fair.
But Saturday featured two high school football games that showed both sides of the fairness coin.
In Class 4A, Valor Christian won its second straight state championship, simply overpowering Wheat Ridge, 38-8. In the Class 3A title game, Glenwood Springs lost to Elizabeth, 29-6.
Valor football, which beat Steamboat Springs in last year's 3A title game, moved up to 4A this season. The Eagles entered the game 10-3, with all of its losses coming during a brutal stretch against Class 5A teams earlier this season.
Saturday's result may have raised some eyebrows across the state. Valor was the fifth-seeded team in 4A, but anyone who watched Valor dismantle Steamboat last year knew their second consecutive title was a possibility.
Here's what I wrote last year after Valor beat Steamboat:
"When the school moves to Class 4A next season, it's not out of the realm of possibility to think the Eagles will be playing again in early December 2010, but just a few miles north at Invesco Field at Mile High in the Class 4A state championship."
It's easy to dwell on it now, but Valor being in Class 3A last season wasn't fair. Look at their campus and facilities and it's hard to not think they're a small, well-funded college rather than a high school.
This year, the Eagles proved they shouldn't have been in 3A. It's hard to imagine them staying in 4A much longer. Valor has proved that its funding, facilities and ability to draw players makes its football team one of the best in the state.
But while Valor being in 3A was notably unfair, it's easy to see the fairness in what Glenwood Springs has been able to do.
The Demons once were the laughingstock of Western Slope football, but now have been the class of the region for three years.
In 2008, Glenwood rode the arm and legs of Dakota Stonehouse to a state championship. After he graduated, the 2009 season looked like a rebuilding project with essentially the whole team lost to graduation.
But whereas some teams can't duplicate success, Glenwood's coach, Rocky Whitworth, built a winning attitude and aura. The Demons didn't care that nobody thought they could do it again. The team made a surprise run to the state quarterfinals last year and made the state championship game again this season.
The only way to explain Glenwood's success is to talk about how they've put in the work, consistently improved and believed in one another.
Valor most likely will end up in 5A at some point, where the team has belonged since its start three seasons ago. Glenwood will almost assuredly remain a power in 3A and on the Western Slope, showing that, eventually, fairness in sports usually wins out.