Friday, November 27, 2009

The Ups and Downs of the E.B. Bears

EB's win over Monroe, earlier in the season.
It was the only game Monroe lost all season.

Dear Old Alma Mater, East Brunswick High School, Da Bears, won a tremendous victory in the State Playoffs last Friday night, defeating Sayreville on the road, 13-8, and advancing to the Central Jersey Group IV Championship. It will be played on Saturday, December 5, at Trenton State College -- excuse me, at the College of New Jersey -- in Ewing, Mercer County.

Then, yesterday, just as we did during our run to the CJ IV Championship in 2004, we lost the Thanksgiving game to Old Bridge. This time, 23-17. We didn't play well at all, but the game turned when a touchdown pass that would have made all the difference (i.e. with the extra point we would have won 24-23) was nullified by a totally bogus penalty by the moronic, blind, Old Bridge-favoring referee.

My father went to the game with me, and he said he got his money's worth. "So did the ref," I said.

Now, this is very tricky. If I absolve the ref, accept that sometimes officials make mistakes, and that maybe this call was not a mistake, and admit that my team simply didn't play well enough -- which is true -- then I'm blaming a bunch of 16- and 17-year-old boys, calling them incompetent, which isn't fair, because they've played so well this year, fully earning their trip to the Finals.

On the other hand, if I accept that my team truly was robbed by a stupid/blind/incompetent official, then it sounds like sour grapes. Well, considering that some grapes are green (like my Bears) and some are purple (like the evil Knights), that may be an appropriate analogy.

Still, that's 17 losses to the Purple Bastards in the last 19 years. And get this: The last 3 times we've beaten them -- 17-0 in 1990 (when they were still known as Madison Central, their colors were navy blue and sky blue, and their teams were called the Spartans), 33-18 in 1994 (the first year Madison and Cedar Ridge had been reconsolidated under the OBHS name after being separated in 1968), and 35-12 in 2007 -- it was a blowout. When The Scum keep it close -- 7-6 in 1996, 24-21 last year, and 23-17 this time to cite 3 examples -- we lose. (They've also won some blowouts: In the 2004 title season, they beat us 21-0; and, of course, the 55-3 blowout Madison laid on us in 1988... I wonder if they still call that the Game of the Century in Scum Town?)

Moral of the story: When you play The Scum, shred 'em.

Days until we play them again: 363. In football, anyway. There will be other sports, but the only winter or spring sports in which both teams are usually good are wrestling and track. In high school sports, football and basketball are the two sports that matter, far beyond any other, and even with the former 2 schools combined into 1, they've rarely been a factor in basketball, either boys or girls.


The title game will be very different this time. Not just because it will be played at a 15,000-seat stadium at a Division III college, instead of the then 42,000-seat (now 53,000-seat) Rutgers Stadium. And not just because we were underdogs in 2004, against Jackson Memorial, whereas this time we're playing Brick Memorial (ironically, the school closest to where my late Grandma lived), and while they beat us in the regular season, 37-34 (making this the first of EB's 49 seasons in which we've played 2 schools twice, after the Semi against Sewerville), we had the higher seed in the Playoffs (4th as opposed to 6th), so we might be favored, and we'll probably get to wear our home green uniforms as opposed to our road whites.

But the big reason this one will be different is that we have now won a State Championship. In 2004, we hadn't won since 1972 (and had previously won in 1966), which was before the State Playoff system began in 1974. We had to win that one.

This time, with a title comparatively recent, if we win, it'll be wonderful; but it we lose, it won't be terribly sad. We'll have the 2004 title to fall back on.

And, of course, we'll have the knowledge that, both times, we won a "State Championship" (really only a regional championship for the largest classification by enrollment), but lost to our most hated rivals. There will always be that shadow over the 2004 title, as there would be over the 2009 title should we win a week from tomorrow.

Still, it's been a really good season. We beat teams that, going into the Semifinal round, had been ranked Number 1 and Number 2 in the County (and, in fact, we're still the only team to beat that Number 2 team this season), and, for 5 days (Sunday morning through Thursday morning), we were ranked Number 1, something that hadn't happened in 19 years. (Even in 2004, there was another team in the County, on the north side of the Raritan River and thus in another "section" of the State Playoffs, that beat us and went on to win that section and take the County's Number 1 ranking in the local paper.)

But I still hate Old Bridge. You can't spell "slob" without "OB." And never, ever run over a bicyclist with your car in Old Bridge. It might be your bike.

How did the Old Bridge guy find his sister in the woods? Very nice.

I know, these are variations on criminal/inbred/stupid/classless jokes you've seen elsewhere. Well, if the shoe fits, they should wear it, no matter how smelly their feet are.

I fucking hate Old Bridge. And if we had won... I'd still fucking hate them.

On the bright side, Thanksgiving dinner went really well. Which is amazing, because I provided most of the food this time, and even shared the cooking duties with my mother. She and my father were both impressed.

My sister and her daughters weren't there, for reasons that should remain private. But she's hosting a brunch for us and some friends this morning. Would she have been impressed with my performance? She'd probably be impressed that, between me and Mom, we didn't blow the damn house up!

It was a very good dinner. But I would have traded a mediocre dinner for a win a few hours earlier.

I hate Old Bridge. Days until we in East Brunswick try to redeem ourselves with a State Championship: 8. Let's go, E.B., E.B., let's go!

Oh yeah: Rutgers plays at Louisville today. A win... doesn't help them much, since they'll still go to one of those bowls that didn't exist 10 years ago, probably in Charlotte, or a return trip to Toronto where they won in the 2007 season.

This is how far Greg Schiano has taken the RU program: Just 5 years ago, a Rutgers fan would have undergone a root canal without novocaine just to go to any bowl game. Now, when we go to a bowl that's not one of the former (and occasionally still) New Year's Day biggies, we're disappointed.

But there's still a championship (Big East and possibly National) level to which Schiano hasn't taken them. This year wasn't it, either. We'll see.

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