Commentary: Tearful ending shouldn't overshadow success
Published: Monday, January 10, 2011
Updated: Monday, January 10, 2011 02:01
That's what I said to myself after Mark Schenauer could not reach me on fourth down. I had positioned myself just past the 30-yard line on Delaware's sideline right next to the first down marker. It was the same spot in relation to the marker where I stood a few minutes earlier, when I saw the Hens tackle Mario Brown just before the marker and officials still award the first down anyway.
As a reporter, you are supposed to put your personal feelings aside when reporting on games. As a student here, it was hard for me to do this at times while watching the Hens. I went to every game this season, home and away, and only once did I really have to try to control my emotions up until Friday night. That was when I was sitting in the media overflow section at James Madison, right behind a bunch of screaming James Madison fans, as Mike Perry was about to hit a game-winning field goal with three seconds to go. You can't suppress your emotions all the time, but I had to try to keep them in control.
Instead of staying there to watch Eastern Washington finish out the game, I decided to start walking toward where I knew the postgame press conferences would be. I didn't want to watch Eastern Washington's celebrations. I turned to my right and saw senior defensive back Anthony Walters on his knees with his head in the ground. "Oh man," I thought to myself, "Poor Dubs."
You aren't supposed to have favorites, you have to be objective as a reporter, but Walters was always my favorite player this year. He is talented, great during interviews, funny and has an incredibly high football IQ. One of my most vivid memories of this season is Walters in that James Madison game. He had injured his shoulder pretty badly, so badly that he would miss the next two games because of it. However, he returned in that game and despite the protests from the bench, he refused to come off the field and was making tackles with just his one good arm. On Friday, it pained me to see him disappointed, and I quickened my pace down the sideline.
I had just crossed midfield when I saw senior wide receiver Tommy Crosby being comforted on a bench. As I walked passed, I could hear him sobbing. My heart sank even more; Tommy was my second favorite player on the team. This was someone who was basically booed off the field after dropping two passes against Maine when the team was up 20 points. He rebounded well however, having the best games of his career against Villanova, and Lehigh in the Hens' first playoff game. Then I remembered how he had to be taken off the field and to the hospital in the semifinal versus Georgia Southern. He did not get to participate in the celebrations after that game, and there wouldn't be any after this one.
I walked even faster, past the offensive linesman, all of whom had tears in their eyes. I took a quick glance at Kevin Uhll, who had just set the record for most appearances by a Delaware player along with Zack Reed. He would not end his storied career with a title.
I was finally down to the end zone, Eastern Washington had taken a knee for the final time and their fans were coming on the field. I was about to turn the corner, head across and go up to wait for the press conferences to start, but then I stopped. I realized this would be the last time I would be on the field with the team, and I guess I did need to see them walk off the field one last time. I stood next to the tunnel and tried to look normal. I couldn't cheer them off of course, but the crowd behind me did plenty of that. I saw the saddest group of young men trudge past me, witnessed a lot of tears, a few expletives, and I was fine with it. I went up to the press conference and by the time it started, I had put myself back into reporter mode, asked the questions I needed to and perused the finals stats.
For whatever reason, I identified with this team more than a lot of teams at the university and those that I follow in sports. I got to see the players in and out of their competitive environment and realize that they are not only great athletes, but great people as well. In the spring, I will graduate and won't be able to have the same experience covering the team. It was something I only got to do for a year, but something I will remember forever.
I guess the point of this column is as follows: A lot of people will search for someone to blame about the loss and say "Oh, it was all his fault." I think that is a terrible thing to do because it takes away what these kids accomplished during the season. Every single one of them contributed something to the team and helped them get to the title game. That's why this was such a great team.
The emotion I witnessed after that game was raw emotion at its finest. Those kids put everything they had into the 2010 season, and they got so far. They should be celebrated and appreciated for their efforts, and they deserve their place as one of the best teams in the history of Delaware football.
Kevin Mastro is a sports editor at The Review. Send questions, comments and a box of tissues to email@example.com.