The following column was published in my sports column in Wootton High School’s Common Sense newspaper.
Think back to the last time you watched or played in a sports game that you considered a classic. The thrill and drama that a classic game entails brings out the best of sports and sticks in the minds of players and spectators for years. Great games make you chew your nails, close your eyes and scream as loud as you can.
For me, one of those games was Super Bowl XLIX back in 2015, when the New England Patriots edged out the Seattle Seahawks on a shocking goal-line interception. The Patriots and Seahawks were two dynasty-level teams on a crash course in the biggest sporting event of the year. Though I didn’t have a rooting interest in either team, my eyes were glued for every play and I was in shock when New England’s Malcolm Butler intercepted the Seahawks’ pass in the end zone. I remember the emotions I felt during the game vividly, and the impact of the game is still felt today.
The high school athletic scene, from basketball to bocce, is no stranger to great games and competitions. But what makes a game or competition worthy of the title of “classic”? These are the necessary ingredients.
Ingredient One: Hype
No game is guaranteed to be a classic, but a feverish atmosphere certainly puts it on the right path. If the opponent is an archrival, such as the Churchill Bulldogs or Bethesda-Chevy Chase Barons, the excitement can serve dual purposes- to bring legions of fans out to the game and to provide even more motivation for players.
Ingredient Two: High Quality of Play
At every level, the quality of play is crucial to the entertainment value of the game and can be what engages fans or, conversely, put them to sleep. When two elite teams clash, the best players take the stage and keep fans on the edge of their seats.
Ingredient Three: Implications
Postseason games are classics waiting to happen. In those games, everything is on the line and players must be on their ‘A’ games to advance. The big stage also makes a game more memorable and can define an entire season.
Ingredient Four: Lead Changes
Competitive play, especially with lead changes, is necessary for a dramatic game and the uncertain outcome makes the game all the more captivating. Lead changes are at their best late in the game, when the time is running out and the tension is escalating. This year’s Wootton-Churchill football game is a prime example of an enthralling back-and-forth battle.
Ingredient Five: Fantastic Finish
A game can have tons of hype and engage spectators for hours, but it is the ending that provides the exclamation point and is the one element that every great game must have. Awesome endings come down to one definitive play and bring out the most genuine emotions: shock, anger, joy, disbelief. They are emblazoned in your mind, not only for days, but for years and decades later.
Ingredient Six: A Patriot victory
The cherry on the top.