A few parting thoughts about 2016
Every year brings something different and every year leaves us with indelible impressions. We all are touched in different ways with events, people moments that evoke joy, anger, frustration, appreciation, awe and disbelief.
It was no different in 2016 which has had its day. It was another year that jumbled emotions and left us with long-term memories. So as we welcome in another 365 days here a few thoughts on much of what transpired that stuck with me like a good rib-sticking stew on a cold winter’s day.
An era I can’t see ever being duplicated at any school ended for the Thomaston High girls on an early June day when the Golden Bears softball team lost a quarterfinal matchup to Stafford. The Bears did not win a state title for the first time in years but did add two more BL titles and another trip to Mohegan Sun.
I spent the last four years following the Bears around simply because they kept winning and winning and then winning some more. From season to season year after year they were relentless champions. The numbers have been well-documented in fact we ran them on these pages back in June but here a couple of reminders.
In basketball, softball and field hockey the Bears played for a possible 28 titles and won 16 in three different sports. They played in a stunning seven state title games and won four, in three different sports. They won everything they played for.
Be in awe at the scope of accomplishment from the third smallest public school in the state with 106 girls who all live within four miles of the school. It is still hard to get the head around the achievement.
And while there were so many contributors to the story. Morgan Sanson deserves special note. I have never heard of or witnessed a better high school athletic career in Connecticut. Seven state title games, four state titles, almost 1,300 points in basketball, all-time single season and career field hockey scoring leader, state softball title winning pitcher.
Her big moments are legendary. Thomaston retired one number years ago – her mom’s. They should retire two. It is a career unparalled.
We are always fortunate when a team takes a ride to the state finals and allows us to follow along. Christine Gamari’s Torrington High girls volleyball team did just that, winning the Naugatuck Valley League and then rolling through the tournament to the championship match where a pumped up NVL rival Seymour came out on top.
I covered Gamari when she was starring for THS not that long ago and she was a star of the first order. It is so much fun watching her excel in the coaching ranks. The Raiders were a lot of personality with Carissa Carbone, the always smiling Ali DuBois and a classy bunch of young women. It is also fun to see what a ride like this does to the school atmosphere.
It was fun just to be part of it and certainly a memory worth savoring for the Red Raiders.
The Torrington Titans folded up recently. Good. I always supported collegiate baseball in Torrington during the summer and thought it was good for the community. I spent a lot of nights covering the Torrington Twisters during my days with the Register Citizen and at times for the Republican American and my son, Jonathan, had the night of his life as a six-year old bat boy when the bat was taller than him.
The community juice for this brand ran out pretty much when the Twisters left. The Titans didn’t respect the past and wrote a manual on bad business.
*Pay your people (they didn’t).
*Advertise locally. When you have several minor league teams in the state do you really think advertising on WTIC and other big venues is going to bring people to Fuessenich Park? (It didn’t).
*Don’t try to cut the salary of people halfway through the season and then not rehire you best public relations advantage. (They did to both. Ask Ed Gadomski)
We could go on, but the bottom line is Torrington is no less off with the loss of the Titans. Summer collegiate baseball had its run here and now it is time to move on.
A little more than a month ago I was fortunate to cover Ansonia football through the state playoffs. I marvel at the consistent brilliance of a program that just refuses to take losing for an answer and has done it forever.
This was a younger team and some said a bit of a rebuilding season. Yep, right through a 13-0 record and state record 20th state title. It took a fourth quarter rally to overcome a very good Rocky Hill team but then again this is Ansonia.
And winning never gets old as the Chargers danced the dance of champions when it was all done. Coach Tom Brockett has been a worthy successor to the legendary Jack Hunt with a 136-10 record and five state titles in 11 season.
The most famous little football team in New England rolls on and it is a pleasure to witness.
Along the same lines is the Seymour softball team. Year after year the Wildcats throw a lights out pitcher on the mound and dare somebody to beat them. Nobody could this year as Raeanne Geffert closed out a terrific career pitching coach Ken Pereiras’ team to another Class M crown. I was fortunate enough to be on their tournament trail. Again, my good fortune. Just to be along for the ride was a privilege.
Tim Gaffney and I get to cover the UConn women and watching the most dominant team in American sports was mind-blowing. You needed to get past the blowouts (which many can’t) to appreciate the brilliance. Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck were a legendary trio of terrific and Geno is the best interview going. Connecticut is so spoiled and this year’s team is just adding to the awe.
On our Cable 5 Litchfield Country Sports show we had former UConn quarterback Casey Cochran in the studio. A terrific young man, he was forced to give up the sport he loved because of 13 concussions. A young man who fights depression and headaches among the many after-effects, Cochran spoke knowingly and honestly about the need to curb this epidemic, about kids being willing to step forward they’ve had their bell run.
We’ve done a lot of fun shows, we have never done one more important than this. You kind of felt like you accomplished something and hopefully Cochran’s message got out there.
A good friend and outstanding coach, Holy Cross boys leader Ed Generali packed it in after a great career. He was always fascinating to watch on the sidelines with his animated style and always had time for me before and after the game even though he blamed for a lot of losses and I never wore the uniform.
You sense time passing with Reggie O’Brien gone, Tony Turina and Jack Taglia retired. Nick Aguelli of Crosby is still going but probably getting close. Now add Generali to the list. All legends.
We also lost a few people this past year in a more permanent matter that can’t be replaced but they left us with wonderful memories. Bill Neller’s wife, Ali, put up courageous fight against cancer before passing away leaving a major void in the Litchfield running community. Win Cheske gave much to Wilby High athletics and was taken suddenly while former Cable 5 sports guy Mike Bakunas also was taken. You thank them for what they gave and you remember.
I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to see what 2017 holds in store. See you at the game.