To the Editor:
In September 2008, I wrote a letter to the editor titled “Bulldogs Just Don’t Get It.” My detailed essay described my frustration with the behavior of the Westfield High School student body during various athletic events. I had no idea how many other people felt the same way I did until folks I had never met thanked me for having the courage to write a letter exposing the behavior that they, too, detested.
In stark contrast, I am pleased and proud to be writing early into the wee hours of the morning, energized by having just returned from Westfield’s Northern Region Basketball Championship where Coach Ewell’s Bulldog boys cut down the nets after two great games, one on Monday (2/27) and the other on the previous Saturday (2/25).
While Coach Ewell’s players and assistant coaches joined the Westfield Dance Team members and Coaches Mrs. Canty and Mrs. Kilmer in outstanding performances on the court, it was the student section off the court on both nights that truly made me a proud Westfield community member.
Unlike some of Westfield’s opponents’ fans during the recent District and Regional tournaments, the hundreds of Bulldog fans who were present for each game never once chanted “B-S” in response to a bad call by the referees, nor did they show up bare-chested with boxers hanging out of their half-fallen jeans. And, unlike the slightly older Green and Gold Patriots down the street, they didn’t turn their backs when their opponents were introduced … one of the many welcomed changes from Westfield ’08. Our Bulldogs are getting it! Could it be that our local college friends can learn something from these high school students? I say yes! Our Bulldog fans are making it clear (by their actions) that they realize being a loyal, rabid, crazed fan has nothing to do with demeaning or disrespecting your opponent.
So, what is the root cause of this sea change on Stonecroft? I attribute the brighter day to outstanding leadership on the part of Principal Tim Thomas and his entire Westfield staff.
For better, for worse, much can be learned from a snapshot. With just over one minute left in the Region Semifinal game on Saturday (2/25), the Bulldog student section correctly surmised that a Westfield victory was seconds away. As the Westfield administrative team strategically positioned themselves in front of the hundreds of would-be party crashers, Principal Thomas faced the throngs of students and, with one simple hand motion, had every single student seated at the blink of an eye. He (presumably) instructed their student leader about how the post-game celebration would be conducted, and then empowered the Boy Patton to brief his troops.
As the clock struck 00.0, with nearly no force at all, the entire student section simply stood in place and allowed the players to complete the traditional congratulatory team handshakes. As opposed to the classless bedlam that typically sabotaged the same tradition on the Bulldog football field back in 2008, the students waited patiently for what must have seemed like half an hour to them. Only after the two teams had shown each other great sportsmanship were the Bulldog players (and not the fans) allowed to direct the action. As the players ran toward the student section, the sea of student fans stormed the court in sheer joy, meeting their team half-way, going crazy …. the right way. As silly as it sounds, it was the feel-good moment of the night. Having nothing to do with the scoreboard but rather with the actions of a wild mob of teenagers who “got it,” the Westfield students gave us all a sensation that could well have been ripped right out of “Hoosiers,” “Rudy” or “Remember the Titans.”
Congratulations to the 2012 Westfield students … on and off the court. Thank you for a job well-done, kids. Keep up your great work!
Future Bulldog Parent