At a time when discord, vitriol and nastiness permeates public discourse, when political fighting sinks to lower levels almost weekly and the 24/7 news cycle is dominated by reports of discrimination and violence, we must hunt for examples that civility still exists.
Montanans saw one such shining example of mutual respect in the State Class A boys basketball tournament last week in Bozeman. Billings Central Catholic High School and Hardin High School met on the court three times this season before the Bulldogs clinched their first state championship since 1997.
That game ended with a score of 47-43 after the Rams and Bulldogs traded the lead several times.
The championship matchup was especially emotional with two brothers playing on opposing teams. Jae Hugs played for Central; his brother, Trae Hugs, played for Hardin. Before the Saturday night game in Brick Breeden Fieldhouse, the two brothers were introduced to the crowd, they hugged at half-court and the near capacity crowd cheered loudly. As sportswriter Kyle Hansen told Gazette readers Sunday, Jae then embraced his father, Justin, an assistant Hardin coach. Jae was on the Hardin team for two years before transferring to Central.
The family ties were part of the sportsmanship story, but it was much bigger. When the Rams and Bulldogs met on the court in January, the Bulldogs won in triple overtime. The Rams won their February matchup in double overtime.
Now such a record surely fires up student athletes and fans. Their passion could lead to negative comments and actions, or it could lead to a deep respect for worthy competitors. The Hardin and Central athletes, their coaches, families and other fans chose the positive path.
Hansen vividly captured the post-game scene, writing: “What may have been the most striking was during the handshake lines, both teams took their time in congratulating one another. Through tears of joy and pain, Central and Hardin players exchanged hugs and words in as good a display of sportsmanship as any coach or fan might ever see. Hardin coach Andrew Round Face and (Central coach Jim) Stergar spoke for a minute through a long handshake and embraced. Then, when Central was presented the second-place trophy, the arena erupted with cheers from both fan bases, and vice versa when (Hardin senior David) Evans took hold of the state championship trophy.”
It’s especially gratifying that young people embraced others from different cultures. Practically the entire Crow Tribe was on hand to celebrate the Bulldog victory. After the final buzzer, tribal members formed a large circle on the basketball court and sang a traditional victory song for more than 10 minutes.
When the two teams finally left the fieldhouse, they were still laughing together, exchanging high-fives and good wishes.
What a great sports story! What a great demonstration of basketball and life skills. Congratulations, Bulldogs and Rams, and thanks for showing all of us what “love your neighbor” means.
Carroll’s new president
Carroll College’s new president brings a wealth of higher education administrative experience that started in Billings. John Cech energized Rocky Mountain College’s community outreach and built up the two-year City College in Billings before moving to Helena as a Montana deputy commissioner for higher education.
Cech chaired the search committee that last week recommended Dan Edelman of Dallas, Texas, as the new chancellor for Montana State University Billings. Having accomplished that MSUB assignment, Cech this week accepted the top job at Carroll.
We wish Cech and his family well. Carroll College has chosen a dynamic leader as its next president.