PAPI & CIRCUMSTANCE: State’s final football poll should stand on principle

PAPI & CIRCUMSTANCE: State’s final football poll should stand on principle

Record-Journal
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I haven’t voted in the state high school football poll in years.

Once the kids came along, I felt I didn’t have time to follow the scene closely enough (beyond our seven area teams) to cast a proper ballot.

You know how it is. First and foremost, you’ve got to do right by the kids.

It is in that vein that I offer my two cents on the final 2017 poll. It will be out Wednesday morning. I’m writing this Tuesday afternoon and I can tell you right now Class LL champion Darien will be ranked No. 1 for a third straight year.

Whether Darien will be a unanimous No. 1 is the only mystery.

If I were still voting, the Blue Wave would not be a unanimous No. 1. Like more than a few state football observers, I’ve had a problem with Darien since the playoffs began.

You know the story. On the day before Thanksgiving, three Darien players were arrested for allegedly assaulting a teenager from New Canaan.

The three players were suspended and none of them played the next day in the annual rivarly game with New Canaan. New Canaan won 27-0 and Darien’s winning streak was over at 34.

Five nights later, as the CIAC playoffs got under way, one of Darien’s suspended players, the starting quarterback, was back in action. Darien beat East Hartford 30-10 that night and went on to defeat West Haven 27-13 in the semifinals and Greenwich 31-22 in the finals to pocket its third straight Class LL championship.

Would Darien have won without its starting quarterback? Based on the Thanksgiving Day result, it’s a hard case to make.

Should Darien be voted No. 1? Based on performance, yes.

But this final 2017 Connecticut high school football poll should not be about performance. It should stand on principle and, upon that, Darien should not be No. 1.

An incident occured of serious enough nature to produce arrests. Darien’s quarterback should not have been back on the football field, plain and simple, until the matter was settled. (And why just him? Why not the other two? Darien handled this badly all around.)

Innoncent until proven: Yeah, I know. But, at the least, a basic code of conduct that most schools require of their athletes was clearly breached.

Not long ago, the coach of one of our local teams dismissed two players for something that’s legal in seven states and the District of Columbia. This was about puffin’, not punchin’. No one was arrested. No matter. Those boys weren’t suspended and allowed back. They were off the team. Gone. The code had been broken.

We are told, “Scholastic sports are an extension of the classroom.” I agree, and the lesson here is there are consequences for actions.

Or should be.

The cynic in me smirks and whispers, “Apparently, the more practical lesson is lawyer up and find the technicality.”

I try to tune out the cynic, but it sure is hard in these through-the-looking-glass days in which basic values and common decency have been chop-blocked to the curb. I can’t help but note the final football votes were being cast in Connecticut the same day votes were being cast in a U.S. Senate race in Alabama in which one of the candidates has been accused by multiple women of sexually preying upon them when they were teenagers.

I’m not saying the Darien football program and Roy Moore are in the same basket because, obviously, they are not. Both were likely savoring victory Tuesday night, however, and in either instance it’s a final outcome that’s all wrong. There’s been too much of that over the past, oh, one year, one month and five days, in my estimation.

Ah, such days. Proven liars denounce truth, alleged sex offenders run for high office and partisanship supercedes morality. And way, way down the ladder of outrage, a champion stooped to conquer.

My No. 1 vote would have gone to Class M champion Killingly, the state’s lone undefeated football team in 2017 and home to the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year.

Killingly is also home to Vasileios Politis. You know the story. He’s the player who survived cancer and returned to football this season. On Monday night, in the championship game, he caught a touchdown pass.

A fairy tale. How about that? They still come true.


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