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    Sunday, August 07, 2022

    Of a wounded knee, national title and politicizing sports

    It is rare, though no less satisfying, to awaken, log on to theday.com and see that three of the top five most read stories are sports-centric.

    Such was the case Monday. In no particular order: The UConn women defeated Notre Dame, but lost Paige Bueckers to injury; Connecticut College made its triumphant return from the Div. III Men's Soccer Final Four with all the hardware; Killingly reached the state championship football game for the third time in the last five years.

    Shall we discuss?

    • The most predictable hot take in the wake of the Bueckers injury was to question why UConn coach Geno Auriemma left her on the floor in the waning minutes of a lopsided game.

    In lieu of critical thinking, this is what we do now: Whom do we blame and how fast can we do it?

    Except the darts aimed Auriemma's way just missed the board and landed in the restroom. Bueckers' injury was non-contact. There was nobody near her. Auriemma wasn't asking her to box out Britney Griner. It was happenstance. Unfortunate happenstance. It happens in sports. It's why the unwritten script keeps us watching. Wincing, in this case.

    Auriemma's answer:

    "She never comes out. She never wants to come out. I don't have an answer for why she was in the game. I don't like our team without her on the court. I mean, I might have to like it if she misses any time, but I don't like the way our team looks when she's not on the floor."

    Interesting. In the old days, the program veterans would have taken Auriemma's words — we can't function without some sophomore on the floor — as motivation. (Some would have cursed him privately.) Maybe Bueckers' injury will inspire elders Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook and Olivia Nelson-Ododa to get better. This just in: They need to.

    • Mad props and bon mots to Connecticut College for the Herculean achievement of a national championship in men's soccer.

    Now a word to the administration: The accomplishment of men's soccer reiterates how no other wing of your institution generates more positive headlines than athletics. No other wing of your institution makes the endeavor of higher education more visible to the public and resonates better with alumni, parents, prospective students and members of the community. There's a reason administrators in higher education often refer to athletics as the "front porch" of the university.

    Please make sure you are sustaining your athletic programs, coaches and kids proportionately with competitive facilities, support programs, funding and general care.

    • Killingly football coach Chad Neal prefers "RPO" (typically "run/pass option" in footballspeak) to mean "run people over."

    And it is on the oak beam shoulders of his linemen that Killingly not only carries itself into the championship game, but the entire Eastern Connecticut Conference.

    Killingly has emerged as the league's flagship program. Congrats to Neal and the gang for bringing acclaim east of the river.

    Killingly has done the same for its town, despite an adult hierarchy still unable to find a suitable nickname and mascot for the school.

    I found it fascinating that the only reader comment on the Killingly-Branford game story congratulated Killingly by its old nickname, the one offensive to Native Americans, the one the students in school voted to change two years ago, the one the misguided adults reinstated.

    Interesting how many folks of certain political persuasions prefer turgid lectures about "sticking to sports" and the need to keep politics off the sports page. But they, apparently, can politicize sports when it fits their agenda. Happily, the reader comment was taken down as a violation of policy.

    Otherwise, a note to Killingly residents: Be proud that a genuine graciousness permeates the football program. How ironic that the kids of Killingly actually represent the same politicos and other dullards in town who confront adversity with name-calling and the other amateur hour charades that continue to rob the football team of a nickname and a mascot. Your football players and coaches have given your town an impeccable reputation throughout Connecticut. Some of your elected officials have turned your town into a joke.

    And the children shall lead them ... all the way to the state championship game.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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