There were two brave, defiant and ultimately glorious campaigns on display this past weekend featuring determined underdogs rising up to give their much larger foes all they could handle and more. One was in the new movie, “300” (see previous post) — the story of 300 Spartans standing against the massive Persian army and the elite Immortals at Thermopylae to defend their way of life. The second was tiny Roseau High School demonstrating its way of life by rising up against greater numbers and big school hockey powers with their monstrous enrollments to win the 2A (highest) state hockey title.
For the Roseau Rams, “The 300” might refer to the school’s enrollment (342 in 2006, to be exact), but like the Spartans they proved that when you get your opponent in a confined space you can triumph through heart, spirit, discipline and skill. What makes it all the more inspiring is that it’s not just a Cinderella story of a small school winning out against long odds, it’s a story of Cinderella saying “Forget about the ball, I want to be on ‘Dancing With the Stars.'” Roseau had the option of playing in Class 1A, created back in 1992 to make things “fair” for schools with smaller enrollments from which to draw their teams. Like the Spartans, they sneered at any such accomodation by themselves or their opponents, especially since in the days of the one-class, all-sizes tournament they had made 29 trips to the state tournament and won five titles.
In “300” Leonidas forcibly rejected the Persian ambassador’s request for a token sign of obedience and submission to King Xerxes. “This is madness!” the ambassador said, seeing the hostile intent. “This is Sparta!” shouted Leonidas as he kicked the man into a pit. Similarly back in ’92 the State High School league came to northern Minnesota with a similar, reasonable proposal to bow to the forces of reason and warm, fuzzy feelings. “This is Roseau!” was the response, with the authority of a slapshot from the blue line, and the small school with the proud tradition insisted on competing against the biggest schools at the highest levels, going on to win the 2A title in 1999 and again this year, persevering over teams in the field with as much as eight times their enrollment.
In ancient Sparta, young boys were taken from their families at age six and sent to the agoge, to learn fighting and endurance, to develop a love for freedom, self-government and responsibility, and to never retreat or surrender. In Roseau the children start skating even earlier, learning to forecheck, backcheck and keep their egos in check and to never, ever stop skating.
There were two brave, defiant and ultimately glorious campaigns on display this past weekend — I hope you enjoyed and appreciated them both.