Sunday, August 9, 2009

Versailles Ohio USA 2

Versailles has an excellent reputation as a powerhouse high school sportstown. The Tiger boys and girls have been very competitive and have had state ranked teams many times as well as state champs several times.
In Versailles the big daddy of athletics is football and has been so since the first teams started playing (and winning) back in the early 1920's. The Versailles football program is considered one of the premier programs in Ohio because it has been consistently excellent for close to 90 years.
I have listened to many folks try to explain this phenomena and several reasons have been presented but in my opinion the success of football teams in particular and the town in general is the result of an understated toughness that permeates the community. It is not like motorcycle gang tough --it is a lot more subtle than that. It is a kinda " I can take your best shot and still beat you " mentality. When things get tough our people hang in and figure out a way to come out on top, they do not give up easily--if at all.
I do not know when it started or why but I know it has always been there. I do not believe it is talked about a lot it just is. I remember feeling it when I was growing up--folks had as sort of inner strength and you instinctively understood that was the way to be.

A long time local legend named Jerry Kerns coined the term "Tigerball" that sorta captures the essence of the message.

I think this community's inner toughness as a whole manifests itself in the sports teams in general and the football team in particular. In my small circle of experience I think of guys like Keith Batty, Denny Mumaw, Louie Kremer, Jerry Voisinet who were all undersized and not blessed with tremendous ability but I would want them on my side in any fight. There were many more football players like this and I could make a long list of men/women not associatd with athletics who will just plain outwork a situation. They do not quit easily--if at all.
I realize that other towns have toughhard working people too but I believe that Versailles just has more of them.

This pic is of Hole Field the home of Tiger football. On Friday nights when there is a home game it is the place to be. Hole Field is a great home field and has the deserved reputation among opponents as a very tough place to win. The teams that have beaten the Tigers on Hole Field knew they were in a battle and had accomplished something special.
Although there have been many great teams cheered on by Versailles fans over the years there is one team that stands out above all the others and is considered by many astute followers of the sport the standard setter for not only Versailles football but high school football in general.
Most of you readers probably have already heard of the 1966 Versailles Tiger Football Team and how good it was(if you have ever met me). I am proud to say that I was a member of that squad and had the priviledge of sharing the same shower room with legends like Wenning, Mumaw, Weaver, Nixon, Groff, Wills, and Knapke when they were doing their thing. What a beautiful thing to see let alone be a part of (I am talking about the football stuff not the shower room stuff).
It is a good bet that when you visit Versailles for the first time and the conversation turns to football (about 99% of the time) the 1966 Tigers will be mentioned.

This is a pic of me and a very nice sculpture titled "the perfect catch"near the entrance to Hole Field (that is me on the right). It is a beautiful piece of work and if memory serves was donated by the Midmark Corp. which is located in Versailles. When seeing this pic I am sure that several folks will ask if the statue was modeled after me. I have to answer no to this question for several reasons. First of all the statue has a #36 jersey and my number was #30. Secondly my pass catching abilities were very suspect--actually I was called stone hands and could not catch a cold if I were dumped in the Arctic Ocean which would make any attempt to pose me in a position likemthis problematical for any serious artist unless super glue was involved --a lot of super glue. Thirdly the last time my waist was that small was before I hit puberty.

As for who really did pose for this work of art I have my doubts that it was a Versailles guy because since 1921 Versailles has gained its superior reputation by having the philosophy of running the football down the other teams throat until they choked on it and then running some more. It has been grind 'em up beat'em up smash mouth football. The kind tough guys play, not the cutesy 5 reciever sets you see today. Throwing the ball was used by Versailles to either set up the run or if an opponent put 11 guys in the box to stop the run making it easy to pass over them, ergo it is uncharacteristic to have this type of image associated with Versailles football. Even the school alma mater confirms all this in the last 2 lines by saying "the seasons pass, but not Versailles". While this statue is awesome it does imply that another player had to have thrown the ball and that is an odd fit in Tigertown. There have been 3 year starters at the "reciever" position inthe Tiger offense who never had a pass thrown in their direction their entire careers, but boy could they crack back block.
Kids from Versailles just do not grow up with visions like "the perfect catch " in their minds. They grow up invisioning running full speed into a good sized tree repeatedly and having that tree fall over after maybe 10 or so hits.

I suspect that whoever did this statue had to go to St. Henry or even Coldwater (gasp) for a poser like this.

Being a former defensive minded player and considering anything related to offensive football truley offensive in every sense of the word my initial instinctive thought when I first saw this fine statue was how to stop that catch from being made. In my experience a good clothsline shot to the throat works very well. It is very difficult for a pretty boy sissy assed reciever to concentrate on making a picture perfect reception like this when he is having his larnyx being relocated.
btw--That is me with my back to the camera.
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