Give Spitzer his due

Dale Spitzer will no longer be coaching football at Fort Defiance High School, bringing to a conclusion the absolute longest endgame in the history of high-school sports in the Shenandoah Valley.
It’s been so long that I have long since lost the year – I think it was 2003, though time has eroded the exact date from the memory banks – but I was there when it became apparent that Spitzer, whose teams have won all of three games the past two seasons, was on his way out the door. His Indians had just beaten a pretty good Turner Ashby team in a late-season game that was crucial to both teams’ playoff hopes – yes, for those who’ve only been following Fort football for the past couple of years, playoffs were something that were almost a birthright at the school, and for years and years at that – and a group of parents and Spitzer got into a now-infamous discussion of, and I’ll never forget this, playing time.

Forget the big win, forget the playoffs – I want to make sure that my kid gets PT, and for that matter, why not put him at one of the skill positions? That was the gist of the give-and-take, and Spitzer got himself in big trouble, with letters to the editor and everything, because he gave as much as he took.

My memory of the local sports scene tells me that Fort hasn’t been a significant player since that Friday night. And I have to say that the only thing that has bothered me about that is that it has sent Spitzer, who finishes with a 136-131 career record, had to endure the last few seasons. The parents who helped egg this on a few years ago, and then piled on today on a blog at NewsLeader.com, sorry, but you’ve got it all wrong. Not every kid is a star player but for the coach making him the quarterback or star center or cleanup hitter. I speak from experience here. As much as I love sports, the most I can claim from my years of dedication is an intramural free-throw championship in college and 14.5 points per game in a county rec league earlier this fall. I could blame the coaches who cut me, didn’t play me, didn’t use me right, but that’s ignoring reality.

And it’s ignoring reality to send Dale Spitzer out the side door like this. Give the man his props. He knows the game of football, and he knows how to be a positive force in the lives of young men and young women. Anything less than a standing O at the Fort football banquet will do the 25 years that he gave the school and the Fort Defiance community a grave disservice.

 

Column by Chris Graham

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