Poor conduct, late hits mar game at 'Betsy

If Garth Brooks had been performing after the Johnson County-Elizabethton game Friday night, his first song would have been the hit single "Shameless."
   Fifteen penalties, seven of them unsportsmanlike, were called in the Cyclones' 35-19 win over the Longhorns Friday night at Dave Rider Field.
   This contest was ugly. I watched this game just in total shock by what both teams were doing. Late hits and trash talking were abundant in this battle of Big Eight Conference foes.
   As I watched this debacle unfold, I tried to pinpoint why this foolishness was going on. I mean, this was probably the first time these two schools had ever played. But as the game went on, I figured out who was responsible for all this.
   It was probably me.
   This week, I went up to Johnson County to do a feature story. I asked the players their thoughts on the upcoming Elizabethton game. They told me what they thought, and I wrote it down.
   Well, I think they went to the Deion Sanders school of talking to the media. As you probably saw, they were pretty bold in their comments.
   But I've always been a fan of "Primetime" simply because he believed in himself, and for most of his career he backed up what he said.
   I feel you have to believe in yourself as a person. If you don't, you won't accomplish anything.
   The Longhorns made some very bold comments, but head coach Mike Atwood thought his boys did a good job of backing up what they said.
   "Oh yeah," Atwood said when asked if the players backed up their comments. "We didn't kill Elizabethton of course, but I think we outhit them. We were ready. We weren't intimidated by them."
   As for the Cyclones, they had every right to use the article as motivation and Elizabethton head coach Tommy Jenkins agreed.
   "We did use it as a motivational factor what some of their players said," Jenkins commented. "But every school in the world does that. I know colleges that have people that just search newspapers to get so-called 'bulletin board material'. Every little angle that you can hit on to try and help you play better."
   But whether you're the team talking smack, or the team receiving motivation by it, nobody can excuse the blatant hits that both teams lavished on each other Friday night.
   To be honest, it looked to me like players were trying to severely injure one another. I think everybody forgot that this is just a game, and that some things much more serious are going on in this world.
   Did September 11 not teach us anything. For the last month, this country has been unified. We have come together as one, and it's been a great sight to see.
   I don't think anybody was thinking about the World Trade Center tragedy, or what's going on in Afghanistan Friday night. We forgot that we're Americans first, and Cyclones or Longhorns second.
   The sad thing about this whole ordeal is that two great communities are represented. I've lived in Carter County all my life, and I attend church in Elizabethton. This place will always be special to me.
   But at the same time, I have grown very fond of the Mountain City area. Since I've been at The STAR, the Johnson County people have welcomed me with open arms. I have made a lot of good friends there, and most people are very appreciative of the coverage they get from this newspaper.
   Another dark side of this story is that there was no prayer after the game. I understand why they chose not to do that with everything being so heated, but it just shows that on this night, God wasn't a priority.
   We have to put this in perspective. Football is not life and death, it's just a game. We have to put our priorities in order, and remember what's important in life.
   And on this night, the priorities were in the wrong place.