Athletic Aesthetic

A Jump in Expectations

Eau Claire basketball success shifts our thinking

Luc Anthony |

Ready to do it again? Old Abe hockey, y’all set to bring home another crown to the city? Evan Anderson, Tyler Brown, and the rest of the Husky b-ballers, are you psyched up enough to end the basketball title drought in Eau Claire? We sure are!

 Welcome to the world of high expectations in the Eau Claire metropolitan area. We are not particularly used to this phenomenon, what with the team title drought that afflicted our public high schools for decades now broken. What we city-dwellers were more accustomed to was the ritual playoff failings that would invariably doom any and all of our state entrants. Sure, we’d get excited that, maybe, just maybe, our team would finally bring home a gold trophy to the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers. Alas, our team would fall short, sometimes before even reaching Madison.

  We no longer feel that way. Boston Red Sox fans were known for their pessimism during the 86-year run of the so-called “curse” that supposedly kept the Sox from ever winning a World Series. The 2004 Red Sox championship begat a 180-degree change in feeling amongst Red Sox Nation, where the pessimism has turned into an anticipation that, no matter the deficit, the Red Sox will find some way to prevail. I sense a similar sea change in Eau Claire after the success of this past March. I, for one, do not approach regionals, sectionals, and the like with full trepidation. OK, I’m not 100-percent confident of victory after one state championship, but I do feel far more confident in the Old Abes’ and Huskies’ chances than I have at any other point in my life. I imagine many fellow city rooters have undergone a similar transformation.

 These city rooters now expect more success. More state appearances, more state titles. We are no longer that lonely population outpost in the northwest part of the state, deluding ourselves into thinking “we’ve got what it takes,” only to be slapped back to reality by the Milwaukees, Madisons, and D.C. Everests of the world (as an aside, how did D.C. Everest always have Memorial’s and North’s number? That one school was really that much better than the product of 100,000-plus Eau Claire residents? I digress). Eau Claire can compete with the big boys and girls; March 2008 proved this is true.

 Thus, we city rooters are the ones who have raised expectations upon our teams: Make state more often! Win more titles! You fell short? The ‘08 team didn’t! What’s wrong with you?! The proceeding sentence sequence is the product of raised expectations, and before Eau Claire’s go flying out of control, we need to be sure not to raise such expectations to Fairchild TV tower-heights.

 I have always argued against placing too much emphasis on winning at the high school level. Yes, everybody wants their favorite high school team to win, but everybody needs to remember that we are placing our hopes and dreams upon the shoulders of teenagers, who are firstly students. The most critical result of their athletic career is that the students have learned lessons that will further their growth into adulthood and society. That is a result that cannot be tangibly measured in the scoreboard. For a select few, their high school athletic careers will need to be judged by statistical performance, since these are the few with the talent to pursue a professional athletic career. However, the vast majority will not and cannot follow that path; the character they exhibit, the effort they display, and how they parlay those elements into their adult lives, are ultimately the expectations by which we should judge the performance of our favorite high school athletes and their teams.

      Winning does matter. As one professional football coach said, “You play to win the game.” However, before we become a city that considers winning to be the only thing (as another such coach once said), pause and remember what the proper expectations should be for our athletes – and for us as their fans. These are the kind of raised expectations we should always strive for – and you will find successful results to be far more fulfilling.