In sports, as in life, there is a time to console and a time to encourage. The line between the two is often blurred in the immediate aftermath of a high school championship game, when one team emerges as the best in the state and the other is left to lick seemingly irreparable wounds after falling on the doorstep of an ultimate goal.
Often, state high school athletic associations try to make losing teams feel better by speaking about their route to the state final while presenting them with runners-up trophies. However, two recent reports from Texas seem to indicate that the Lone Star state's University Interscholastic League has gone far beyond that line, to the point of all but openly condescending to teenagers who had just lived through the most significant athletic setback of their young lives.
As reported by the Abilene Reporter News' Evan Ren, the UIL consolation speeches at the state tournament finals were so blatantly elementary in their pandering that, as Ren put it, they came across as "an insult wrapped in compassion."
Here's how Ren described the meat of the consolation speeches as they were delivered:
"The speech" as it became known among some of the media members covering the event, varied to a certain degree, but here's the gist of it:
-- Remind the kids they had a great season, often using an example of a key win they had along the way to get to Austin (as if they would submerse that memory forever).
-- Remind the kids their fans believe in them and supported them all the way to Austin (as if the kids didn't realize it or appreciate it already).
-- Inform the players that one day the pain of this loss will subside, and they'll be proud of what they accomplished (as if their coach wasn't going to tell them that very thing in the locker room minutes later).
One of the UIL reps even told the players to turn and face their fans in the arena. She then told the fans to give the players a hug when they meet them after the game.
As Ren points out, the amount of consolation delivered to losing state finalists in the weeks after a state tournament loss in their hometowns is often nearly overwhelming, a natural process which makes the UIL's postgame consolation speeches more than just unnecessary. It makes them downright patronizing.
When you add in tasteless insults toward other schools -- as the Dallas Morning News reported a UIL official offered up about Galveston (Texas) Ball High in a speech to LaMarque (Texas) High -- you get perfectly asinine pandering by a state organization allegedly dedicated to helping Texas students mature on their own, through the intermediary of sports.
Can you imagine how stupid it would look if some NCAA official lined up a group of college basketball players after a loss in March Madness and told them how they should feel about the defeat?
It's really not much sillier to do it at the high school level, where the kids are far more resilient than many of us want to believe.
The UIL, however, chooses to coddle the defeated -- falling just short of patting the players on the head and handing them lollipops as they exit the floor.
If consolation speeches at other state's title games were anywhere near as bad as Ren and his Morning News colleagues made Texas' out to be, perhaps it's time that all state athletic officials gave them a rest altogether.