The gist of the lead in a recent Sports Illustrated story about Boston Celtic basketball player Paul Pierce was this: Does winning in sports really matter any more?
The author wondered whether athletics have become more about bread and circuses, about individual star power and selfishness, about revenue rather than victory. It asked how important, in the case of Pierce, winning was after garnering an NBA title, reward for years of soldiering on through his oft-maligned lean years.
Obviously, professional sports have become about money and entertainment. The lure of lucre has filtered down into colleges now beholden to long-term television contracts featuring numerous bowl games and March Madness.
It got me wondering if high schools are the next logical step, which is perhaps inevitable. Because the truth is that there is a monetary price paid for winning. Associated Student Body budgets have been crunched, in part because of extracurricular success.
Ferris, for instance, is paying down a six-figure activities expense from state participation over the years, activities coordinator Mike Syron said.
“One of the interview questions when I got the job was, ‘How would I raise money for the ASB?’ ” Syron said. “I answered, ‘I’d raffle a car.’ ”
That project ultimately raised $13,000, but Syron said he’s had to instill in coaches the message that there are limits on what they can spend when a team travels.
In government zeal to contain teenage obesity, the mandate to remove pop and candy machines from schools has impacted sports, which are about physical activity.
WIAA assistant executive director John Miller and Syron said that valuable source of ASB income generated nearly mid-five figures of revenue annually for ASB coffers. Miller said students still purchase their sugar and caffeinated drinks, only they buy elsewhere.
He said that most state tournaments are profitable, but as costs have risen the teams are affected in other ways. There was a time when the WIAA could help defray state tourney travel costs. That ended several years ago, hence the decision this year in the face of high gas prices to place all eastern Washington football teams on one side of the state bracket.
The days are gone when athletics were once a news item in the sports page. Now they are a commodity complete with licensing fees. Must the times force high schools to follow suit?
Most likely, as winning and money go hand-in-hand. Syron fears the days of “pay to play” may be coming.
“I still think (high school) sport is for sports’ sake,” Syron said. “That’s the purpose and we have not gone away from that. But I do think we have started to slide on a slippery slope.”
More wrestling news
Deer Park won a state title last year. This year, coach Matt Jorgensen set out to add a big tournament championship for his 2A Stags. They’ve come close. In December, Deer Park finished third at the Tri-State tournament behind perennial 4A champion Lake Stevens and Flathead (Kalispell, Mont.).
Last weekend at the Pacific Coast Wrestling Championships in Vancouver, Wash., Deer Park was second with 178.5 points to Graham-Kapowsin’s 201.5.
Cody Miller won the 152-pound title. Blake Adams (112) and Billy Rhoads (140) were second; Brandon Leliefeld (145) and Kyle Whitney (171) finished third; Drew Acorn (119) was fifth; and Ethan Grable (215) and Shawn Burton (285) were sixth.
•East Valley’s Dakota Lawson finished first at the Sierra Nevada tournament in Reno. Chris Tripplet was fifth and Keith Babington seventh for EV. The Knights placed 11th as a team. They are at Central Valley in a Greater Spokane League showdown tonight.
•Ferris will host five GSL makeup matches on Saturday. At noon, the Saxons will meet CV and Mead will challenge Gonzaga Prep. At 2 p.m., G-Prep meets Ferris and CV and Mead square off. Mead takes on Ferris at 4.