I was watching the Dawson/Boyd Blackjack girl basketball players hugging and crying with each other after their season came to an end in section play on the Canby gymnasium floor last Monday evening. The Blackjack seniors were especially having a difficult time because it was the last time they would ever put on a Blackjack basketball jersey. Every year I witness the emotions of senior ballplayers playing their last game and it always stirs emotions in me remembering the last time I put on a Madison Dragon uniform. That was forty-three years ago and I still remember the sadness that it brought me.
When I was in high school, I lived for high school sports. That is all I thought about during the day, and I couldn’t wait for practice and playing the games with my friends. I played football in the fall, wrestled in the winter and did both baseball and track in the spring for the Madison Dragons. It was October 1975, we were in Granite Falls for the last regular season football game, the winner would win the conference and go to the playoffs. The playoff format was a lot different back then. We lost to the Granite Falls Kilowatts in the cold rain that night.
I remember walking off the football field in Granite Falls that night knowing I would never play football again. I sat in that quiet locker room with my teammates, wet, cold and disappointed that we lost. I sat there alone for the longest time for one reason, and that was because I didn’t want to take my uniform off. To this day when I drive by the YME football field I remember that moment. It still hurts after all these years.
In the spring of 1976, I played my last high school baseball game in Montevideo. The high school baseball field was inside the Fiesta City Speedway track at the time. There’s is a bit of trivia for you. We lost to the Mohawks in District play. When we got back to Madison and went into our lockeroom, I turned my baseball uniform in to Mr. Besonen. It was a very sad time for me. I only lived about 5 blocks from school and began to walk home and I cried like a baby knowing my high school athletic career was over. Something I had such a passion for was ending. I’ve never told anyone that before.
When I see seniors hurting after they play their last high school game like I did Saturday, watching Maccrays Dani Burns and Piper Asche, I can relate to what they are feeling at that moment. Even last weekend after winning a state championship at Target Center, Shadows Lydia Aafedt and Riley Jo McCoy realized they will not be a part of the team they have put their heart and soul into next year. Tears of happiness and sadness at the same time for them. But life moves on and I know that I am a better person because I was part of high school teams and had a great experience. In the coming weeks more and more senior athletes will experience taking the uniform off for the last time. I would encourage you to go give them a hug and a word of encouragement. I’m sure they would appreciate it.
Maccray seniors Piper Asche and Dani Burns and their fathers