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Sportsmanship - One Person CAN Make A Difference
There is something more important than the game of basketball... it’s called the game of life.
Published: 2/27/2018 7:26:34 PM
Written by: Gary Jones
While covering the 2018 2A Girls’ state championship tournament for, I noticed a name on the Ririe roster, Brynlee Torgerson. It made me go in the way back machine to March 7, 1992.  I was at Centennial High School to announce a state basketball game. New Plymouth, the school I taught science at for 32 years, was playing West Jefferson for the third place trophy.  I was doing the play by play for KSRV out of Ontario, Oregon.
After the Pilgrims beat the Panthers, I signed off the air and went into the locker room to celebrate with our kids.  What happened next will always remain with me.  A player from the Panther’s team came into our locker room with his powder blue jersey on.  He proceeded to go around and talk to, shake hands, and congratulate each of our players.  He told them he liked and respected them as players.  Our kids embraced him completely, and together they were soon laughing and joking.  It made me think that if a teenager can act this admirable, why can’t the rest of the world?

After some five to ten minutes, he bid them goodbye, but as he walked out I approached him.  I knew his name because I had just done the game on the radio. I addressed him and told him that what he had just done was the most impressive and classy gesture I have ever seen a competitive teenage athlete do.  In a world of increasing trash talk and disrespecting opponents, here was a young man doing the exact opposite.  It took courage to go into our locker room after a disappointing loss and admit that the Pilgrims were the better team that day, but a young man named Eric Torgerson made it look easy.  

Now let’s go back to the future and the 2018 tourney. There were two girls filming for Ririe and they were standing right next to me up in the balcony at Kuna High.  Just before the game started, I asked them if Brynlee had relatives in West Jefferson and they told me they thought they were cousins.  The game began and I started my play by play. Within a minute and during live play, one of the girls leaned in and started talking to me about Brynlee again. Now when people talk to me when I’m live and on the air, I usually don’t answer them. However, when she leaned in and talked to me, my mike probably picked up her voice, so I decided to answer her.

To keep my listeners of the game informed of what I was talking about, I told my story about Eric quickly over the air.  To my surprise, he was listening from Ririe, where he teaches and coaches the boys’ basketball team, and Brynlee is his daughter.  He contacted IdahoSports and the next morning I was amazed to read his email saying he was the player that walked in our locker room that day.  If that young girl had not talked to me on the air, I'm not sure any of this would have happened, but thank heavens she did! 

On Super Saturday at the Ford Idaho Center when the 6 state title games go on, Eric was there to watch Ririe play Soda Springs in the championship game, and I was there to announce it.  He came down to where I was sitting and we embraced and talked about that day 26 years ago.  I looked him square in the eye and I told him why what he did was so important to me, and why I remembered it after so many years.  

Here it is in a nutshell:  I will always root for the Pilgrims for obvious reasons and you will root for your home team.  If we watch two teams play that we have no affiliation with, we usually don’t care who wins.  Sometimes we root for the underdog, sometimes the team with the star player or our friend’s kid, or maybe just the purple team because it’s my favorite color. But ever since March 7, 1992, if one of those obscure teams is West Jefferson, I root for them.  And I’m now adding Ririe to that list. Why, you ask?  Two words:  Eric Torgerson. 


One person, just one, gave me a positive perception of West Jefferson.  Now let’s assume incorrectly that he’s the only one like that in West Jeff.  I would still believe the Panthers to be quality people just because of him. So one person can make a difference!  They can make you look great, but at the same time, one person can make your town and school look bad.  

When you watch high school sports today, you see very rude behavior from adults in the stands in almost any gym you travel to.  It’s not just in a couple places.  Watching college and especially pro sports, you see athletes trash talking, disrespecting their opponents, the media, the refs, and even the fans.  Sports today are taking on a different tone.

It can be dangerous to wear the jersey of an opposing team into many stadiums today because you might get verbally and physically assaulted.  My brother and I went back to a USC/UCLA game a few years ago.  We sat in the UCLA section and I was adorned in a complete USC outfit.  I got verbally harassed the entire game and a fight broke out right next to us between two opposing fans.  I grew up there and it was never like that when we went to a game.  

What do you think the effect is on our young, future athletes watching their role models act like this?   It only seems to be getting worse.  In many ways we’re becoming the Divided States of America.

As I reflect back on the last few days and the fond memories that rushed through my mind, I’m very thankful I saw Eric again.  He and people like him are my role models for how someone should act after a game and in life. They’re a bright beacon if the night gets too dark, and their light shows us there is hope in humanity. Whether we are Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, left, right, red or blue, we are not that different.  Don’t believe the people who say we are.  We are all on the same team and in this together as Americans, and it’s time to stop the divisiveness.  Do something good to someone today and tell them they got “Torgyed”.

I believe most people to be good and that we all want the same things. We want a good life with liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness. We want our citizens to obey the laws and be good samaritans to other people, regardless of their race or religion. We want our athletes and coaches to respect their opponents, the refs, their team, and their sport. And when it comes to sports, we all want that elusive and hard to achieve state championship, but not at any cost.

"Great coaches are ones that don’t just show you how to win, but how to lose"

When an athlete competes in a title game and loses, it’s easy to exhibit poor behavior for a while because you’re upset at getting so close to your goal, but you failed.  Sometimes you look back and regret what you did or said.  Great coaches are ones that don’t just show you how to win, but how to lose, as well.  When Cary Cada’s team at Borah High lost a title game a few years ago, while the other team was receiving their medals, Cada had his players on the floor standing side by side in a semi-circle. They all applauded as each Madison Bobcat received their medal.  It was the ultimate display of resect.  Most of the time, the kids are on the bench slumped over and crying.  His point was, you can cry and be bummed, but you’re going to do it standing up and respecting them by clapping.

Sports are very important in our schools and teach the kids many life lessons.  However, we must also remember it’s just a game, and whether we win or lose the game, life goes on.  Only one team can hoist the championship trophy, declare themselves state champs, and call Josten’s for the rings. That doesn’t make everyone else losers, because on that memorable day in March 26 years ago, when Eric Torgerson lost that third place trophy, his actions afterwards proved he is a champion in a game much more important than the game of  basketball... it’s called the game of life.

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