“It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true. Muhammed Ali said that. Back when he was a young man. Back when he was Cassius Clay. Before he had too many fights and left his brain inside the ring…” — Dan Bern
The first time I ever saw a sign welcoming a motorist to town and bragging about itself was in the summer of 1980, when I beheld, “Welcome to Reed City, home of the Coyotes, state Class C basketball champions.”
I admit I was impressed.
Since then I have been accustomed to seeing these green signs often at the approaches to the community, with white lettering proudly proclaiming athletic or academic accomplishments. The ones I noticed earliest in these parts were the two in the same academic year, trumpeting the state Class D championships in football and wrestling for Martin High School, 1987 and 1988.
I lamented for some time that Wayland didn’t seem to have any bragging signs, but also was uncomfortable when the first one appeared for being state runners-up in debate. Those feats were repeated twice more, in 1995-96 and in 1996-97.
My discomfort related to the fact Wayland was the only community I knew of that had signs bragging about being No. 2. This in a culture that too often wrongfully calls runners-up, like the Buffalo Bills, “losers.”
Furthermore, I noticed that Hopkins had been state runner-up three times, twice in football and once in girls’ basketball, yet did not have a sign erected. So I was embarrassed that we proudly proclaimed, “We’re No. 2!”
Wayland’s state title drought finally was broken in the academic year 2003-04 when the “Wildcats” took all the marbles in the Division 2 state debate competition. Coach Cheri Ritz and her softball team followed two years later with Wayland’s first athletic state crown and repeated that feat nine years later.
I bring all this up because I think it’s time to retire the three-year debate runner-up sign, perhaps sell it to someone who would like to have it as a souvenir. So when the 2015 softball championship sign comes in, let’s have the welcoming sign trumpet the state championship accomplishment of three “teams.”
Besides, as this photo demonstrates, the runner-up sign’ has seen better days. Some might even call it an eyesore.
Let’s brag only about our three state titles, our rightful claim three times that “We’re No. 1!”
Because it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.