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Time to be a teammate, preferably a good one

August 1, 2011
By MIKE MATHISON , The Herald-Star

Before I talk about sports and teammates, I say it's time for the Madonna and Weir High football teams to get together, formally, on the schedule in the regular season.

Although it cannot happen for two seasons as the Blue Dons are set in their 11-week schedules this year and next, the Red Riders and Blue Dons should find that week on their schedules and make it a community event.

I am not a fan of the first three weeks because it would be great to see Weir continue its series with Indian Creek, Harrison Central and Edison. I don't like Weeks 10 or 11 because of the weather. I am a fan of the last Saturday in September or the first Saturday in October, a crisp afternoon in the fall.

Admission is $5 per person plus parking plus a canned good for the Community Bread Basket, which should add well over 5,000 canned goods to their pantry.

I would like to see a 1 p.m. kickoff and make a community day of the affair. Make it a big event because it is a big event, as long as all the adults keep it in perspective.

It would be a financial boost for each school, which is always a good thing.

I am also a big fan of seeing Madonna and Oak Glen get together on the gridiron next year in Week 9.

"Love the game. Love the game for the pure joy of accomplishment. Love the game for everything it can teach you about yourself. Love the game for the feeling of belonging to a group endeavoring to do its best. Love the game for being involved in a team whose members can't wait to see you do your best.

"Love the game for the challenge of working harder than you ever have at something and then harder than that. Love the game because it takes all team members to give it life. Love the game because at its best, the game tradition will include your contributions.

"Love the game because you belong to a long line of fine athletes who have loved it. It is now your legacy. Love the game so much that you will pass on your love of the game to another athlete who has seen your dedication, your work, your challenges, your triumphs... and then that athlete will, because of you, love the game."

That is an unattributed quote I recently found.

Athletes all over the place are sweating today getting ready for their respective sports (yes, even the golfers sweat). You wanna walk nine holes in this heat carrying your clubs?

Other than a firm yes from Gary Repella, I'm not sure who else would volunteer.

Cart, anyone?

Anyway, teams are being formed in football, boys and girls soccer, volleyball, golf and cross country.

Some of those team members are really good friends.

Some don't like each other at all.

Some tolerate each other.

And, coaches will have to take all those attitudes, those individuals and mold them into one common goal - to win and win the right way.

Some of those athletes will get injured and miss short periods of time, or, unfortunately, the whole season.

Yet, they are still teammates.

"I had a long conversation with Steve Carlton. He told me that on the days he pitched, he felt it was his responsibility to make everyone around him better, to lift his teammates. That's what I try to do." - Randy Johnson

"I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform." - Ryne Sandberg

"I'll do whatever it takes to win games, whether it's sitting on a bench waving a towel, handing a cup of water to a teammate, or hitting the game-winning shot." - Kobe Bryant

As practice begins, coaches are also looking at all the athletes who spent the summer getting better.

Remember, if you didn't spend the summer getting better, you got worse while members of your team and your opposition worked hard to get better.

Getting better is a relative term.

What's also relative is that getting better is only done through hard work.

It's not done through hours of Xbox in the basement (According to autopsy results, 20-year-old Chris Staniforth died in May after suffering from deep vein thrombosis. A blood clot formed in his left calf and traveled to his lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, after a marathon Xbox session).

Athletes get better and become better teammates through nothing more than good, old fashioned hard work.

Sweat equity, you might say.

Athletes don't magically get up one morning performing soccer tricks they couldn't do before heading to bed.

The old saying goes that the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.

"Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you're ready to play as tough as you're able to, you'd better go out there and do it. Players will see right through a phony. And they can tell when you're not giving it all you've got." - Larry Bird

"Hard work and togetherness. They go hand in hand. You need the hard work because it's such a tough win week in and week out. You need togetherness because you don't always win, and you gotta hang tough together." - Tony Dungy

"I've never known anybody to achieve anything without overcoming adversity." - Lou Holtz

"Any guy who can maintain a positive attitude without much playing time certainly earns my respect." - Earvin "Magic" Johnson

Good teammates are those who care more about the team than themselves, whether they start and never come off the field or never leave the end of the bench.

Good teammates don't have to play every minute of every game.

Good teammates are good teammates regardless of playing time.

Good teammates are good teammate because they are at least 15 minutes early to practice.

Bad teammate are bad teammates for many reasons, the No. 1 of which is they care more about themselves than the team.

The Pirates are in the hunt this season for a lot of reasons. One big reason is the hire of Clint Hurdle as manager.

You have to admit for as many things that have not gone right at all with hires by the Nutting Family, this hire as the bench boss has been a grand slam.

He is holding players accountable and is not taking mediocrity as an excuse for anything.

Ray Searage as the pitching coach has been another solid move. The pitching has been above average and has kept the sometimes anemic offense in a lot of games.

Kevin Correia is tied for fifth in the majors with 12 wins and Jeff Karstens has been filthy and deserved the win Sunday in Philadelphia. It would have been nice to see Joel Hanrahan in a four-out save opportunity against the Phillies in the eighth inning.

Folks, that 19 inning loss is not the one that keeps the Buccos out of the playoffs. Losing games like it did Sunday, those keep teams out of the playoffs.

And, for those of you who are complaining about what the Pirates did not do at the trade deadline, lighten up.

They surely didn't need to break the farm for Ubaldo Jimenez, who, by the way, has gone 10-16 after starting last season 15-1.

The Indians gave up four prospects, including their top two pitching prospects for Jimenez. That's something the Pirates could not nor should not have done.

The addition of Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick are solid for the Buccos.

One thing I do not want to hear come out of the mouth of any NFL player is an excuse of why football is so bad early in the season. No excuses.

By the way, I am already tired of NFL talk.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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