Murphysboro is heading to the IHSA Baseball State Finals for the first time since 1966 after a Super-Sectional win over Teutopolis on Monday. Amidst the postgame excitement, the moment that stood out to Murphysboro Athletic Director Len Novara was the sportsmanship displayed by the "T-Town" team and fans. He lauded those actions in a letter to the school superintendent, which was published by the school on Facebook and reprinted below with permission:
Dear Superintendent Fritcher,
I am sorry to bother you and normally I would communicate along the linear lines of the customary chain of command, but for this matter I wanted to go directly to you.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Len Novara. I am the athletic director at Murphysboro High School. I am not sure if you were in attendance at tonight's IHSA Class 2A Super-Sectional Baseball game between our two schools or not. But I felt compelled to write to you on several occasions:
First of all, on one of the most exciting high school baseball games I have ever witnessed (and that spans close to half a century). Both teams played hard and clean. Both coaches influence on their teams was more than evident. And both fan bases displayed nothing but sportsmanship that all can be proud of.
However, what caught my attention and will always stick in my mind was the reaction of Coach Fleener and his team as the game came to an end. The game itself ended in bizarre fashion, as the Teutopolis baserunner was tagged out only feet away from home-plate on an odd play. Keep in mind, with a trip to the state tournament on the line, his run would have tied the game in the bottom of the 7th. I specifically watched the reaction of the Teutopolis players at this time. And I was shocked. I am used to seeing kids throw helmets, gloves or bats. I am all too familiar watching kids pout or sulk (which in my mind would have been perfectly acceptable considering the magnitude of the moment). Instead, I saw a coach, coaching staff and players pick each other up and get in line to shake hands with the Red Devils. Demonstrating sportsmanship that I would hope all would learn from.
But what happened next will forever be a part of my outlook on sports and my teachings going forward. I was on the field taking pictures of the trophy presentation with my back to your team and fans. When Murphysboro was presented the trophy, I heard a roar come from behind me. I quickly assumed your crowd was giving your team an ovation as they were coming off the field. But to my surprise, when I turned around, your parents, fans, coaches and players were all giving the Red Devils a standing ovation. To be honest, I was so moved by the show of good sportsmanship, I had tears in my eyes, and chills ran down my spine. In fact, I had a little trouble keeping my hands steady while trying to take pictures.
This probably doesn't sound like a big deal to most of our society today. However, those of us in education realize this is the model of conduct that only those who practice high character can demonstrate. I have shared this with our staff, team and fans...and I can only hope this is what my community looks like when the battle is over and things don't go our way. For moments like this say far more about the type of individuals than any victory can ever display.
Although it is from a distance, I am very aware of the storied-tradition and success of T-Town. But what your Coach, kids and community did tonight speaks volumes about the type of education your community practices and teaches...and that is far more of a victory than the final score of ANY sporting event!
Also, Special Congratulations to Teutopolis Wooden Shoes Athletic Director Andy Johnson. As I know he not only is responsible for his teams conduct, but a gentleman that practices what he preaches.
Please share with your community our appreciation for teaching us all how to conduct ourselves (especially when thing don't go our way).
Murphysboro High School
50 Blackwood Drive
Murphysboro, IL 62966