Sports is a world that defines the “Never Say Never” cliché. A group of American college kids will never beat the equivalency of an NHL all-star team from Russia. Appalachian State will never go into the Big House and knock off a Top-5 Michigan football team. Buster Douglass will never take the belt away from Mike Tyson.
The year after my beloved Buccaneers shellacked the Raiders in the Super Bowl, the two teams met again in the regular season. When the Bucs scored a touchdown at the end of regulation, and Martin “Automatica” Gramatica came out for a game-winning extra point, my friend Andy and I may have ran cheering, ecstatic laps around a table full of Raiders fans at the sports bar.
Well needless to say, “Automatica” missed the kick and the Raiders won in overtime.
Oops. Lesson learned. In sports, nothing is routine, and nothing can be taken for granted.
But on Tuesday, I saw something I have never seen before, and I will never see again.
In what can only be described as a gargantuan volleyball match between defending City League champion Wichita Northwest and perennial power Wichita Heights, the Lady Falcons made the trip to 13th and Tyler to face a hostile Northwest crowd.
The Northwest student section was absolutely fantastic. And Crystal Whitten played her heart out for the Falcons, in a hard to take five-set loss to the Lady Grizzlies.
And although the loss was heartbreaking and visibly hard on Whitten, I have to give her the biggest tip of my hat that I have to give.
It is not for her play on the court, which was eye-catching. This girl has to be considered one of the best in the league. But it is for what happened in a timeout right in the heart of crunch time in the fifth set.
The Heights bench in the fifth was right in front of the Northwest student section, which was in full throat all match long. With the Lady Falcons huddled in a critical part of the match, the Northwest students were cheering, and they were cheering loudly.
That is when Whitten turned around and shouted, “SHUT UP!”
This is the first never in the story. I can honestly say I have never seen this in all my days as a member of this earth. And there is a reason for that. There are consequences for this type of speech.
Can you imagine what would happen if Payton Manning came to the line of scrimmage making the bird flapping motion with his arms to signal to the Arrowhead crowd to be quiet so he could call an audible? The decibel level meter would explode into a shrapnel bomb.
Can you imagine if an Oklahoma City player told the Thunder fans sitting behind the opposing bench to shut up at the Kansas Coliseum? The extra deputies hired for security down there would earn their pay the hard way.
Oh Crystal, you just brought on a big storm of…
Wait a minute. Did…what just…hold on, hold on. The Northwest students are silent?! How…what?!
Never will I ever see this again. A visiting player went into a hostile venue and silenced the crowd by simply telling them to shut up?
Awesome. Crystal this will go down in my hall of fame of coolest things to ever happen, in sports or otherwise. And it wasn’t a simple matter of telling them to shut up.
If there had been one ounce of doubt, weakness, or fear in her voice, she would have been ripped to shreds. But there was none. It was the voice of absolute confidence.
It was the voice of a person who was sick and tired of being behind, and was about to take the match over.
I think most of why the Northwest students suddenly lost their voices is from the shock of what she had the G-U-T-S guts to say. But there may have been a portion of, “Uh oh, we just made her mad and now we are in trouble.”
I could have sworn I saw her eyes go black while flames danced red-hot in the middle. There was no question mark anywhere in the statement, because she was not asking. She was telling. There was no please.
Things eventually went back to normal. Once the match started back up, the crowd got back to it and Heights came up just a little short.
But keep your eye on Whitten, a player with the courage to tell the folks in the visiting barn to shut up, and the force of will to make them obey.