I haven't been around much the last four days as my attention was focused on the Minnesota Boys State High School Hockey Tournament. This year's tournament was better than average with the best game being the Friday night semi-final between Grand Rapids, a small town on the Iron Range with a rich tradition in hockey, and Hill-Murray, a private Catholic School in St. Paul, also with a rich tradition in hockey.
The Class A and AA Championship Games were both won by private schools, prompting the usual chorus of boos from those claiming that private schools have a strategic advantage because they are not bound by geographic limits. That may have been the case in days past but for the last 20 years Minnesota has had an open enrollment policy allowing high school students to attend school of their choice as long as it is for "academic purposes". There are many reasons to harbor resentment toward private schools but, at least in Minnesota, academic recruiting is no longer one of them.
The more egregious affront to the tournament was the decision, some 10 years ago by the High School League, to switch from a single class tournament to a two-class format. The justification for the change was that it would allow a greater number of students to cherish the "tournament experience". Unfortunately the tournament has lost some of the magic that prompted Sports Illustrated in 1981 to label it the single greatest high school sporting event in the country. Better than Texas Football, Oklahoma Baseball or Indiana Basketball. The net effect of a two-class tournament is similar to that found with modern language translations of Shakespeare classics. It might be more accessable but the beauty is lost.
One tournament tradition I enjoy is counting the number of cliches that have become so much a part of televised sports. Every year I keep track of how well the newest crop of high school athletes are able to emulate their heros by stating the obvious, spouting one-line aphorisms, and basically answering inane questions without actually saying anything.
Here are my favorites from the weekend.
* Bring our "A" game
* Take it to the next level
* Draw first blood
* Offensive shootout
* Took the crowd out of the game
* They still have hope
* The goalie stood on his head
* Good call by the official
* Good non-call by the official
* The next goal is will be huge
* Crunch time
* They found a way to put the puck in the net
* We've gotta take it to 'em
* We just need to play our game
* They left it all on the ice
* They came to play
* When you put the puck on net, good things happen
* He can score from anywhere
* He is a pure hockey player
* He's a complete player
* We have to come out flying
* We need to move our feet a little more
* He was robbed
* You can't say enough about him
Someone has taught these kids really well.