People like to say that sports is just a game. Clearly those same folks have not spent any amount of time watching the Douglas Bearcats this season.
Sure, the Cats won a lot of games and are heading to the state tournament this Thursday, but they have also embodied everything that is not only good about sports, but about our community as a whole.
Whether it’s the young guy on the team getting his first chance to shine on the main stage, or team captain Ty Larson dragging himself and his pneumonia and bronchitis to the 3A East regional tournament and leading DHS to State, or the story of a head coach who wears his heart on his sleeve and loves his team like they are his own sons, this team is a special one.
Yes, they are one of the eight best teams in the 3A conference, and yes, they are great at their craft, but for those of you who haven’t witnessed their actions this season, I can see why you would think sports is simply a game.
Weekly at the rec center, the boy’s team and its boosters recognize someone special in attendance. They have handed out plaques to hall of fame coaches like Ed Sheridan and Ron Erickson; they have honored our veterans, fallen students and the numerous cancer survivors in our town. And for what seems like a month now, they have honored one of their own — Dominick Firnekas.
Dom is the team’s lone senior and now the most beloved athlete in Douglas. He suffers from autism and scoliosis, but you would never be able to tell by the way his team and the crowds have embraced him.
Tears and cheers have been the common theme when big Dom hits the floor. The crowd chants his name, the team hugs him and encourages him, and for the first time in nearly four years of playing, Dom can’t seem to get the smile off his face. It’s a great smile. One that says “thank you” and “I’ll never forget these moments for the rest of my life.”
This team is easy to root for even without all of the selfless things it does. It has all of the ingredients of a winner. Kids who voluntarily perfect their shots daily at 6 a.m., players who work hard on the court and in the classroom, and arguably the most important quality: do their due diligence in the community.
This is a tight-knit group. One that wouldn’t be denied with their season on the line last weekend. I would expect much of the same when they take the court Thursday at 1:30 p.m. under the bright lights of the Casper Events Center.
So, for those who still say that sports are irrelevant and just an after-school activity, I encourage you to head west on I-25 Thursday afternoon. It will be worth the trip, I promise.
–– Cody Tucker