Moral victory possible in sports/Paul Peterson

One of the pet peeves of many sports fans, is that all too often, they are asked to settle for what is called a “moral victory” from their favorite teams.

I’ve never liked that term, just as I dislike the term of participant that seems to be in vogue these days.

As a longtime Michigan State University and Detroit Lions rooter, I’ve learned that moral victories are much more common than the real thing.

In recent years, MSU has managed to shed the label they had in the past when they always seemed to end up a yard short or a free throw away from a really big win.

But the basketball Spartans of coach Tom Izzo have carved out a nice record lately, and will be a contender once again this coming season for the national title.

The MSU football team program has also done well in the past decade.

The Lions have provided little more than moral victories over the past five decades. Sure, they have had Barry Sanders (the best running back in NFL history). And Calvin Johnson is unquestionably the premier receiver in pro football – a fact he underlined in Sunday’s sterling performance against the Dallas Cowboys. But they have always managed to come up short on the big stage.

A couple of our local high school football teams, Calumet and Baraga, did come up with moral victories this season.

Fighting an unusually high number (ten starters were lost) of injuries, the Copper Kings missed the playoffs for the first time in several years by going 2-7.

But John Croze’s Copper Kings continued to play through the adversity and won their last two games.

Croze, when asked about the tough season, preferred to dwell on the positives of the year.

“Our kids never once gave up this season,” he said. “They battled all the way. And the young kids we had to bring up to the varsity earlier than we wanted to now have that experience.”

In other words, the adversity of this season could well bring dividends in coming seasons for CHS.

Baraga, on the other hand, entered the season with no lofty expectations. With a roster of just 17 players, playing in the rugged Great Western Conference was no picnic.

The Vikings took their lumps as expected. But coach Eric DeMink could see progress.

“We started moving the football pretty well,” DeMink commented recently. “Our offense started to work in the last few games.”

Against a playoff-bound Houghton team, the Vikings rushed for better than 160 yards. BHS did the same against Ontonagon in a game in which they were tied 14-14 at the half, but ended up losing.

No one knows for sure if the Baraga grid program will survive in the future. Eight-man football might be looming.

But at least there was improvement as this season progressed and that was enough for DeMink.

“If we suit up just 11 players next year, we’ll give it our best,” he promised.

And that alone was a moral victory for a program has won just one game the past three years, but now is looking for more.