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    Thursday, August 11, 2022

    Bacon football: reinvention through beautification

    Colchester ― Reinvention often happens in the spiritual realm, a slow, steady inner cleansing that may be nameless and faceless, but powerful enough to provide this unidentifiable feeling that you can suddenly make the sun move across the heavens.

    Make no mistake: This is reinvention. But it also has a face. Several, actually. Like the Board of Education member in the beekeeper’s outfit. The kids with the rakes, shovels, weed whackers and power equipment. Even some arduous moms and dads, whose perspiration corresponded to the weather, which happened to be last Saturday when it was hotter than Satan’s sandals.

    This has been the summer at Bacon Academy, where the football program, on the front page for all the wrong reasons about eight months ago now, takes its swing at reinvention through beautification ― a self-imposed community service project to make campus look positively spiffy.

    You may remember L’Affaire de Bobcat from last November. An incident happened between the cheerleading team and members of the junior varsity football team following a game in Waterford. The two teams were sharing the bus to and from the game. Sources alleged that certain individuals were looking at pornography on their phones, engaged in inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature and mimicked a sex act using football helmets.

    The ensuing investigation, which required months to complete after rising to the level of Title IX, forced the varsity to forfeit its final three games. Ah, the irony: In pursuing whether some kids were robbed of opportunity through Title IX’s tentacles, innocent varsity football players were robbed of opportunity, too.

    Cue all the bromides about life’s travails. Maybe it’s true that what truly makes life unfair is the delusion that it should be fair in the first place. Except that you aren’t a 17-year-old high school senior whose favorite thing to do in the whole world got taken away through circumstances beyond your control.

    Yet now comes the rising. With the simplicity and authenticity of bare hands. No speeches. Just work. And when all the kids, teachers and administrators reconvene soon, they’ll see a spiffed up campus, because the reinventors, the football team of 2023, has weed whacked, power washed, painted and cleaned up the front of the school.

    They've cleared the vines off the fences and cleaned the playground. Painted and washed the sign to the complex near the football field and the concession stand. Polished the front of the school as well as the courtyard, where things had been overgrown. They raked and removed brush. They’ve cut down trees. They even found two beehives, whose removals may symbolize how the sting of 2022 is a duller ache today.

    “I felt like a piece of all of us was stolen,” sophomore lineman A.J. O’Neill was saying. “One of those games was Senior Night. One of those games was the Homecoming game. We had a lot of things taken from us. We felt like the whole team was getting punished for something that two or three kids did. Everybody knew who those kids were and yet they were launching extensive investigations. Some feelings linger. We talk about it. Even the new coaches talk about it.”

    And they decided that manual labor was the most earnest way of conveying the sincerity of reinvention. Summer Saturday mornings have been awash in kids and parents working their ascots off, knowing that reputations are easier stripped than fortified.

    “It’s important to get the team together to create some unity, take pride in their school and clean it up,” said parent Holly Champlin, whose twin boys will be freshmen this year. “It feels good. It's a great thing to see all these kids come together and actually work as a team. Really do some hard work on a hot day. They're having fun, getting something accomplished and giving back to the school. Football players or not, they’re students, too, having a good impact on the community.”

    Perhaps nothing else was more noticeable than Board of Education member Margeau Gignac, who wore full beekeeper garb, tending to one of the two nests discovered on campus. No photo op, this. Just the unspoken appreciation of someone who believes in the kids.

    “My daughter is a beekeeper. Go figure. So I borrowed her suit last weekend this week,” Gignac said. “When this incident happened last year, it was the week I was voted in on the Board of Ed. Welcome to the board. I was not in support of ending the season at all. But this is a fantastic response. Makes you feel really good.”

    Among other lessons, perhaps this teaches the kids (and the rest of us) that, as the old song goes, we were never promised a rose garden. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make the garden look rosier.

    “We want better out of the school. We want better from this program,” O’Neill said. “This was a division champion in 2015 and 2016. We think we have a chance to accomplish that again. But that starts with trying to prove that we're not what we were last year. We want to show we will work toward a goal.”

    And show that life goes on, whether you get wine or vinegar.

    “In the beginning it was difficult to process,” team parent Pat Walsh said. “But we're taking it as a new year and a new team trying to do a little rebranding and creating a culture. And that's something that takes a little bit of time, but the kids are the kids are buying in. You have to turn the page and can't live in the past. You learn from it.”

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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