Nights like Wednesday make bigger picture look even brighter

Waterford

The words "division championship game" should say enough. But this was more. So much more. This was a beacon. It was symbolic. It was inspirational. It was historic.

And it all happened on some nothing Tuesday night in October.

Maybe that's the point. There was no fanfare. A nondescript weeknight. Another illustration that the best stories come from nowhere.

And so it was on the newly turfed terrain of Waterford High that the Lancers and East Lyme played a girls' soccer game Tuesday. It was for the championship of the Eastern Connecticut Conference's Large Division.

Under the lights.

On turf.

Gate proceeds went to raise awareness and money in the battle against ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease.

And it was on statewide television (CPTV Sports) too.

Let's frame that for a minute: It wasn't long ago this game would have been on the back field at Waterford, the one that used to be near the pig farm. In the afternoon. With a few friends and relatives watching. And television? There wasn't even a bathroom out there, let alone all the requisite wires and gadgetry required for a television broadcast.

Shall we hit the cosmic pause button and ponder the significance?

"When everyone else was preparing for championship game, I have to admit I was thinking bigger picture," said Waterford coach Rob Brule, one of the soccer's pied pipers in our corner of the world. "It was hard not to think that way after what it was like when we first started here.

"We played out there," he said, pointing to the back field off Miner Lane, "with no bathrooms. I had to clean the field myself. We've come a long way. Now look at this facility. All the support. It was so great to have CPTV Sports want to come down. I'm happy we had the number of people we had here."

Brule managed that sentiment after his team lost with six seconds left. East Lyme's Meredith Moore scored one of the landmark goals in program history. And it was all there for the CPTV Sports cameras, with UConn women's play-by-play voice Bob Joyce calling the game.

That's right. The same guy who called all of Maya Moore's field goals also called Meredith Moore's biggest goal. Joyce's presence helped turn this into an event. Consider he awakens every day at 3:30 a.m. to produce the WTIC-AM morning show. And yet he spent his Tuesday night in the 06385 with a network that thinks enough of high school sports to trumpet the product across the state.

"East Lyme doesn't want to beat anyone worse than us," Brule said, "and we don't want to beat anyone more than them. But at the end of the day, we're pretty friendly. And we all know we have to carry a torch at some point."

The flames on Brule's metaphorical torch burned with tentacles Tuesday. The flame to promote their sport locally. The flame to showcase their sport across the state to who knows how many colleges coaches watching potential recruits? The flame to raise awareness against ALS, a neurodegenerative disorder that paralyzes the body, not the mind.

And to think that so many of us would have normally viewed this game as just a game, lost in all the other games. This was an event. Important on so many levels.

A more cynical fellow might even chuckle at how this game drew about half the number of people who attended the McMahon-Murphy debate at the Garde a night earlier. The "crowd" there was described as "raucous." The "crowd" was estimated at 600. There are bigger crowds at funerals.

Sometimes you wonder what might happen if we in the media spent more time promoting our kids and the games they play instead of gasbag politicians whose cosmically important debate didn't even fill the Garde to half its capacity.

And it's "just" sports?

This was sports in all its glory: a showcase, a beacon, a symbol of technology put to its best use.

"I was out of town and had no idea we'd be on TV until my daughter texted me," East Lyme coach Rachel Redding said. "It's fantastic. Amazing. Rob does a fantastic job promoting our sport. I hope this gives it a kickstart to younger generations, like, 'hey, the high school kids are on TV, maybe I'll get there one day, too.'"

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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