Basketball heats up in Greenville
by Brian North

This week Greenville will be home to the Eastern Regional Basketball Tournament. Thirty-two schools will start with championship hopes, but only four boys teams and four girls teams will emerge Saturday with their championship hopes still intact. In between there will be blowouts and buzzer beaters, shouts of joy, and tears of pain. The memories of four games every night will stay with the athletes, coaches, and fans, for the rest of their lives. It matters who wins and who loses, that's why they keep score. But no one will get fired, have their contract terminated, or be asked to take another position within the school just because their team didn't win the big one.

Scholastic sports has changed a lot over the years. But it still hasn't reached the "life and death" approach taken by professional and big time college athletics. And I hope it never does. Yes, steroids have crept into high school locker rooms, and unsavory characters with dirty money can be seen schmoozing with kids who either don't know any better or don't want to know any better. But more high school athletes learn life lessons about hard work, sacrifice, and dedication, than are corrupted by the evils of the "win at all costs" attitude that prevails at higher levels of sports.
I still believe that it's more important to play the game the right way, leave it all on the floor and lose, than to cheat at the game, cheat yourself and win. That's why I will miss Bill Herrion after he leaves East Carolina. He tried to do it the right way, and any player who made it through his tough practices for four years is a better person for it. The bad part is, it didn't result in enough wins in six years, and that's how he will be judged in the ECU history books, which is too bad. Fan pressure and economics have a lot to do with it at the division one level.

We all like to be associated with a winner. But its easier to sleep at night with integrity. Very few of the athletes competing in Greenville will be happy at the end of the week, but if they do it the right way, the rewards will last a lifetime. Or until they go to the next level and the pressure to win changes everything and seemingly everybody.

Brian North