When Parker Boyce, Southern Boone High School’s talented kicker, nailed a long field goal to take a late lead against arch rival Hallsville in last Friday night’s football game, I got a little carried away in the excitement of the moment.

Travis Naughton

“Phillips’ field goal was good from 43 yards!” I yelled into the microphone from my perch in the press box. Oops. Running back Colby Phillips did a lot of great things on the field that night, including blocking a punt, but place-kicking was not one of them. What can I say? Even “The Voice of the Eagles” falters once in a while.

I hope Parker can forgive me for botching his name over the public address system following his big moment. I suspect he can because he’s a good kid, raised by good parents. And his teammates (and their folks) are good people, too. That’s why it was tough to watch the Eagles lose the hard-fought game on a desperation heave to the far corner of the end zone in the contest’s final seconds.

When Hallsville took the lead, they also took the air out of our stadium. The raucous atmosphere that had followed Parker’s kick and Colby’s blocked punt quickly turned somber, and understandably so. After the final horn sounded and disappointed fans of the home team started making their way toward the exits, I expected to hear the usual complaints, armchair quarterbacking, and words of negativity that typically flow from “supporters” of a team that has just suffered a bitter defeat. Instead, I was heartened by an altogether different vibe emanating from the crowd: a distinctly Southern Boone vibe.

As I worked my way through the crowd, I felt an overwhelming sense of positivity coming from the parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, and alumni who had just watched their loved ones’ hearts get broken on the football field. It was immediately obvious to me that I was in the midst of hundreds of compassionate human beings who were demonstrating how real supporters of a team should behave.

In stark contrast to many fans of college and professional programs (and a few high school teams, too, I’d wager), the Southern Boone fans I saw that evening maintained a refreshingly calm demeanor for having witnessed such a disappointing outcome. In fact, they were almost serene. They weren’t necessarily happy, but they didn’t seem despondent either. They were, quite simply, just proud of their boys.

Folks were kind to one another as they filed out of the bleachers. There were smiles and hugs. Warm salutations and goodbyes were exchanged. It was almost as if people realized that the world would still keep turning even after losing a home football game to the Hallsville Indians.

I love watching and playing sports as much as anyone, but I know that in light of the hurricanes, floods, forest fires, earthquakes, and wars taking place in the world right now, the final score of a high school football game is pretty inconsequential, and it seems that folks around here feel the same way. But that doesn’t mean that sports don’t matter.

Participation in sports builds character. Two of the most important skills a human being can have, winning with class and losing with dignity, are taught through athletic competition. Valuable life lessons such as giving maximum effort, preparing diligently, and working toward achieving a common goal as a member of a team can all be learned through sports.

It is clear to me from my 18 years of living in this area, and from what I witnessed last Friday, that the good people of Southern Boone County possess those character traits that sports teach. With role models like the ones who pack our grandstands each week, it’s no wonder there are so many fine young men who play on Coach Tracy’s football team. The outstanding boys and girls who participate in other competitive pursuits around Ashland are further evidence of our community’s commitment to preparing young people to become good adults. From softball and soccer to basketball and band, SoBoCo students learn from an early age how to win and lose the right way—the Southern Boone Way.

I love Ashland, Hartsburg, Englewood, Claysville, and Wilton for that distinctly Southern Boone vibe—the one that makes me proud to be an Eagle.