Small school bias and private school hate

With every year the Roseau Rams advance to the state tournament and new record is broken: tournament appearances (31). The Rams are loved throughout the state because they fit the David (vs. Goliath) to a tee. Roseau is a population of 2700 roughly, and whomever their opponent is they almost always are out-populated.

You can expect during tournament tv coverage to see a figure like the one that says Roseau’s quarterfinal opponent, Blaine, has a school population of or beyond Roseau’s entire town population. David’s make sports interesting because it builds up the drama on the odds against the Goliath’s. However, what’s left out is hard, objective data. In today’s athletic geography, small towns can have an advantage. In Roseau’s case, they of course are bred hockey, which is all to their credit. But this means Roseau isn’t going to be real competitive in too many other sports. For them to be a leading hockey town it requires that the town as a whole live and breathe hockey. It is somewhat different than other metro teams. Those schools, while still holding hockey as a big sport, have other athletic interests. It means the hockey numbers are going to be down since there are other areas of interest. Another issue, during the transfer era, was the cluster effect in the metro. If a student could leave Johnson for Cretin’s hockey program, it’s a short commute away. Small towns don’t quite offer that same luxury since a short drive could be 20 or more miles away. Also, because travel time is usually longer in rural Minnesota, and because populations are lower, competition for the best talent may have been reduced to just a few of the best programs. Metro schools had the disadvantage of losing some of the best talent to several competing metro schools. In other words, to get a better idea would have been to count participation numbers amongst all schools and/or communities.

Another bias is private schools, particularly metro’s, were heavily scrutinized for their transferring in the past. Small towns were really never given the same treatment. To play even requires objective data without bias to anyone. It’s sort of assumed that because small towns are “small,” they are somehow exempt from any underhandedness. It tends to be that if you’re “northern” and “small” – you’re in. If you’re “metro” and “private” – you’re out.

During Cretin Derham Hall’s 2006 state final victory over Grand Rapids, I was dismayed by the lack of credit for the programs first ever state title. Cretin beat Rapids 7-0, out-shooting them 32-8. But to the anti-privates, Cretin didn’t win for they cheated by transferring. That may well have relevancy, but in fairness every team needs to be scrutinized. No anti-private would take the time to consider the point that a Cretin coach was loyal to his school for 30-some years. They were a hockey program that hadn’t done much of anything since their last state tournament appearance back in 1988. He paid his dues by going through many hardships before finally seeing his kids play like champions in the state tournament. But to them that’s nonsense. Not too many biases would say the reason Grand Rapids lost or hadn’t made it to the state tournament since 1991 is because the responsibility rests on their own shoulders. The northern “town” has the parameters of a city (!) to compete on a large scale.

St. Thomas Academy’s run to the 2006 “A” title is another case in point. They won in OT in the quarters, double OT in the semi’s, and after trailing Duluth Marshall 3-1 in the third, they came back to win 4-3. Yeah, it’s true the Marshall goalie gave up three soft goals, but STA simply wanted it more in that third period. They out-worked the Hilltoppers for the title. But two years later we have fans claiming STA needs to be “forced” out of class “A” because of success. Although STA hockey had never amounted to much before, they are riding on their fourth straight appearance in state, winning their second state title in 2008. What qualifies them for the axing has never quite been identified, but you can bet private hate is a precursor. You wouldn’t hear an anti-private complain that Warroad, a team who has four “A” titles of their own and numerous appearances, needs to move up to “AA” competition.

There is no real cure for hate. One of the reasons why privates are loathed is due to upper classism. Private students generally do better in nearly all areas. They are more likely to stay away from drugs. They tend to have less problems in the home, etc. And their parents are higher income earners. They pay for their kids tuition on top of the public school taxes (!). It would seem they should be loved, but the economic distinction is at the core of their hate. Some hockey fans view the state tournament under the constraints of a make-or-break philosophy, dependent upon should a private win the state title. You may not like the fact in the past that privates transferred, but that is secondary to the problem of the level of hate.

You could say today isn’t a whole lot different. Privates are still hated despite the fact that MNSHSL is now under the non-transfer rule (!). And it really shouldn’t come down to that for these are kids after all.


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