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With six teams in state finals, these are rewarding times for ECC

We are about to embark on a historic two days here in our corner of the world, the final championship weekend of high school sports in Connecticut that has unwittingly become an ECC-palooza.

This spring marked, perhaps for the first time, that it's officially become harder to win the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship than compete for a state title.

Pretty cool, no?

A record six programs within the conference will play for state championships this weekend, keeping us busier than Times Square here at your favorite media outlet. It begins Friday night in Middletown when Waterford baseball goes for its record 11th state title, followed Saturday by Waterford softball, Norwich Free Academy softball, Stonington girls' lacrosse, East Lyme girls' lacrosse and Bacon Academy boys' lacrosse.

And four of those six programs didn't even make it to their respective ECC tournament championship games two weeks ago.

It's been quite a year for the ECC. Six teams making headlines in the spring followed a winter in which the league earned statewide props for holding its boys' basketball championships at Mohegan Sun — and later announcing the girls' finals will be in Neon Uncasville as well next year.

Lest we forget that most ECC championship events are live streamed on now, allowing anyone who wants to watch the opportunity to see the big crowds and major venues. Observers from other parts of the state look at us now and must be wondering who dumped what into our water.

It's fabulous. Because now we have no more reason to retain any hint of a sporting inferiority complex that has plagued us — for no reason, really — for many years.

I never understood it. We've had enough Duboses, Pressleys, Wheelers, McDonalds and Harveys to run with the rest of the bulls through Pamplona. Yet perhaps our geographical isolation has mixed with a bit of self-imposed woe-is-us from the league's hinterlands to create a false narrative.

No longer. The ECC, despite not having as many schools as the Southern or Central Connecticut Conferences, has risen beyond any mid-major status. Mid-majors don't get six teams in the finals and play at Mohegan Sun.

Hence, we make a modest proposal to the readers and viewers of Day Nation: Get out this weekend and support the kids. From all our schools. If you have an affiliation with East Lyme or Stonington lacrosse, stay for both games at Jonathan Law in Milford. If you partake of Waterford or NFA softball, go to both games. The fields in West Haven and Stratford are a few miles apart.

If you are a baseball fan, go to Palmer Field in Middletown Friday night. The Lancers could use your help. Berlin High is a short drive from Middletown, indicating that half the town will be there for the Redcoats. So, show up to help Lancer Nation.

(OK, I get that Waterford is a tired story for many of you. But no other school has done more to enhance the ECC's reputation throughout Connecticut in recent years. You can go back to hating them on Monday.)

Finally, if you like boys' lacrosse, go support Bacon at Brien McMahon in Norwalk. Hardly a better story in the state than a school where the sport was an afterthought not many years ago to a state championship game.

The ECC thrives in part because of its rivalries. But this is the weekend when we're all in this together. When one of our teams wins, we all look better, even for us at your favorite media outlet. Local sports appear to grow in popularity by the day around here. I'm not sure the reasons. I don't care. Let's all just ride the wave.

So, congrats to commish Gary Makowicki, all the teams and coaches — and especially to Ledyard athletic director/assistant principal Jim Buonocore, who is the league's biggest advocate across Connecticut. We're lucky to be where we are right now. And we ought to enjoy it.

Good times ahead.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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