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ADAM HIMMELSBACH: It’s not how many get titles, it’s how they’re won
WHEN I WAS 11 years old, my youth basketball team placed fourth in a four-team league.
We were frustrated and annoyed, although we all got over it once we got home and started playing “Tecmo Bowl” on the original Nintendo. (Ask your parents, kids.)
We went to the end-of-season banquet because our parents told us we had to. We figured we would eat some pizza and watch the first-place team get its awards and maybe throw pretzels at kids from the other team while no one was looking.
Then they called us to the front of the gym to accept our fourth-place trophies.
My friend Dave and I looked at each other as if it was some kind of joke.
“Uh, dude, don’t they know we came in fourth?”
They did know, and they didn’t want us to feel badly about it, so they gave us trophies.
They gave everyone trophies.
No, the Virginia High School League’s new six-classification system is not that bad.
But I still don’t think it’s a good idea. I think many state championships will be cheapened, and they just won’t carry the same weight.
Of course, any team that wins a state championship under the new model will disagree with me, because who wants to admit that their state championship isn’t as impressive as those that preceded it?
But look at the numbers.
Currently, the sports that use a three-classification system must navigate a field of about 90 teams.
That’s pretty impressive.
Under the new system, that field will essentially be sliced in half, to about 50 teams.
Think about that for a second. There are currently nine teams in the Commonwealth District. That’s about 20 percent of the state field right there.
And there is potentially other collateral damage from this decision as well.
Under the new format, schools will not be required to hold district tournaments.
I’ve always found district tournaments to be one step below state tournaments, but several steps above regionals.
They are the places where rivalries are renewed and revenge from regular-season losses is sought.
The emotion of a Courtland versus Chancellor soccer game or a Stafford versus North Stafford basketball game cannot be replicated in the playoffs.
Thankfully, several athletic directors said this week that they plan to continue district tournaments, for the time being at least.
I could be wrong, and I hope I’m wrong, but in the end, this new classification system seems to be focused on money.
State tournament ticket prices are expensive. And at state tournament games, there are often state tournament hats and T–shirts and programs and potentially whatever else a logo can be printed on.
This new system could double revenue from all of that.
Yes, some of the logistics of the new system do make sense. Albemarle, for example, will finally, mercifully, no longer have to travel to high schools in Stafford County each week.
But when state tournaments begin and trophies and medals are rolled out, the accomplishment will seem more hollow.
Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442