It was a long, lonely walk to Garage A.
The final buzzer of the Class 2A state boys' basketball championship game blared Saturday like a bad alarm clock a half hour earlier. It signaled the end of the Crosby-Ironton Rangers basketball season.
Fireworks didn't explode in the Target Center rafters. "God Bless America" wasn't playing over the public address system. Balloons didn't fall and graffiti wasn't scattered about. The season just ended.
Walking through the Minneapolis skyways, the sound of my shoes scuffing the ugly carpet beneath me, I kept asking myself, "What do I write about?"
I planned an interview with soft-spoken C-I senior Kody Bartels. He probably would have told me, in as few words as possible, that he was happy. But he wasn't. None of the Rangers were after New London-Spicer became the New York Giants for 36 minutes and ended C-I's perfect season.
Instead, I searched for the driest eyes I could find leaving the C-I locker room - sophomores.
The Crosby-Ironton Rangers boys' basketball team entered the Target Center before its Class 2A state semifinal victory over St. Bernard's on Friday in Minneapolis. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood» Purchase reprints of this photo.
It was a contrast from the scene outside C-I's locker room Friday and Wednesday, and the week before that and the three months before that.
The high of watching a team continually win disappeared and C-I fans finally realized they were exhausted.
I was, too.
Saturday, during the lengthy ride home, I kept asking myself, "How do I write this column."
My initial thought was a piece about how the team brought the community together. Then I read the Vox Pop in Sunday's Dispatch and realized a few people are more concerned with cheap daycare than reconciling differences of opinion.
That was Saturday night and so now I'm disappointed the team lost and upset that people need to complain about everything and the Dispatch provides them an anonymous way to air unimportant grievances.
Then 1 p.m. Sunday arrived. I sat next to Joe Simons in the Ranger Gym. I said hello to him. Then one manager, 13 student athletes and three coaches walked into the gym one at a time. Their eyes were heavy with fatigue and discontent. Their heads were down, but every now and then they popped up and a smile appeared.
Fans fought their own fatigue to stand and applaud. They weren't tired or sad anymore. They were appreciative of the efforts of this basketball team.
What had to be written materialized: 32-1, second in Class 2A, the second-best overall record in the entire state behind only NL-S, the best record in C-I history, Mid-State Conference champions, Section 8-2A champions and state quarterfinal and semifinal victories.
Those accomplishments aren't about community healing or bringing people together. They're about one manager, 13 student athletes and three coaches who made a goal and accomplished a few smaller goals on the way to the final one. The story had to be about a remarkable season.
Leaving the Ranger Gym Sunday, I realized one thing needed to be written:
jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.
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