Rally Around the Flag

Richard F. Hunkler, Ph.D.
Slippery Rock University

Now that both the Men's and Women's US National Team coaches have been selected don't you think it is time that we rally around the flag and give these two coaches all the support we can? I know I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of either of these two men because this is a daunting job even if you didn't have two anonymous, water polo, message boards. With the two message boards it means that these two coaches are subject to both constructive and destructive criticism, to well meaning and not so well meaning advice, and to outright falsehoods and loose tongue rumors from every jackleg water polo expert in all of the fifty US states and maybe even the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Islands, Wake Island, and...

There are always going to be some people who say that one of these coaches couldn't get an Olympic medal if it were wrapped in a wet paper bag that is handed to him on a deflated blue striped ball and that the other coach can get us medals but he can't get us the gold even if his water polo life depended on it! Since there is no crystal ball there is really no way anybody, including the water polo pundits on the message boards, who can know if either of these outlandish statements are true. Thus, we will ignore these misinformed and misguided individuals who make such statements and who are trying their doggonest to become another Dear Abbey. Besides I prefer to enjoy my glass that is half full of expectations that these two men can perform such feats as winning an Olympic gold medals if given the time, the support, and the encouragement needed for such a garganuan task. Hey, the 1980 US Hockey team did it!

I can remember when people were ecstatic if the men's team placed in the top six and a bronze or silver medal made us happy for four whole years. A gold medal would have caused more heart attacks in the Executive Committees good old boys club than eating a whole semi-truck filled with fried pig skins. I can also remember when we thought that outsourcing a US National Team Coaches job was not only un-American but was a capital offense punishable by being made the USWP Women's Vice President for a full term (that office was invented so the President and Men's Vice President didn't have to deal with and/or listen to the women and women supporters who believed the women should have a National Team too).

Alan Cima got it right when in one of his posts he said we need to pull together. Hell, pulling together helped us to produce enough airplanes, ships, guns, and military personnel to win World War II, and the water polo community pulling together will help the US Teams to medal in the World Games and the Olympics. There is an old saying that we have been using in this country for centuries and I think it applies to our situation as well, and it goes, "United we stand and divided we fall".

Just how long should we have to stay united? "Forever" is on my wish list, however, on my realistic Santa Claus list is a minimum of four years. A united water polo community for four years would probably cause another star to appear (maybe in the west this time) because it would be a near miracle. Miracle or not if we were to set our hearts, minds, and wallets to the task we could do it. In fact we could call it our "Victory Drive", and we wouldn't have to collect old tires, newspapers, and or junk metal for this battle. We could help to win this one by collecting support and money for the US Teams and Coaches.

Also the two US National Coaches would need to collect real support on and off the message board as well as the players on the two Teams. If you can't post something constructive then "Shut the Devil Up!" Do you think the Serbia and Hungary teams were built in a season? There are many people that say they wish our US Teams could play as well as Eastern European Teams. Well our teams just might be able to play not only as well but also better than the European Teams if we were to give them the support those teams receive in their home countries.

Notice the two coaches names were never mentioned in this diatribe because this is not about names and personalities but it is about backing whoever is the US Men's or the US Women's National Team coach. Surround these two coaches with good assistants, good players, and good and generous supporters and I promise you they will not only surprise you but also they will down right make you proud - proud to be a water polo contributor of your time, money, and effort. Somerset Maugham said it best when he said, "It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it."

Let us place the water polo glory back in old glory, and let us remember there is no place in our flagship for anonymous yellow striped posts or stars tarnished by falsehoods and rumor on the message board. Let us make room on the message board for constructive criticism, meaningful comments, and verbal pats on the back. I will end with a quote and the mangled lyrics of a familiar song. The quote is something that I tried to coach by, "You see things that are and say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were and say, 'Why not?' - George Bernard Shaw" (I even thought the ROCK was going to beat St. Francis at Easterns this year!) The song lyrics are as follows:

O say, can you see, by both teams early fight,
What so proudly we watch’d at the Olympics so beaming?
Whose broad backs and strong arms, was a perilous sight,
O’er the stands we watch’d, a game with stately meaning
And the scoreboards’ red glare, the cry USA sounding in air,
Gave proof thro’ the game that our teams were still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Email Coach Hunkler at [email protected]