ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” article. It is an editorial by the editor.
Imagine my surprise when I stumbled onto the Michigan High School Softball Coaches’ installment this week of ranking the top 10 teams in all four divisions.
Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of Wayland. Though this is not a monumental oversight in this perilous age of Covid, it is puzzling because Wayland perennially has been included in rankings over the years, at least those in which Cheri Ritz has been coaching. Even more puzzling is that one of the administrators of the ratings is Tom Kaechele of Caledonia, who knows Wayland almost as well as the team he coached so many years.
To be sure, the Wildcats fell on hard times two years ago, suffering their first losing season since Hector was a pup, at 17-19. There was no season in 2020, but it appears Wayland this spring has made an impressive turnaround at 18-2, like the Phoenix arising from the ashes.
I hear tell Cheri Ritz doesn’t take losing well. It shows in her impressive drive to regain much of the glory of the past, which includes two state championships and one of the most dynastic softball programs in Michigan.
That’s why I am reminded of the old Carl Belew 1950s country song, “Am I That Easy to Forget?” made most famous by crooner Engelbert Humperdinck in 1967.
It’s really hard to believe Ritz and Wayland can be forgotten when considering the top softball teams in Division 2. Furthermore, the Wildcats’ only two losses were to Anchor Bay, ranked No. 7 in Division 1, and Byron Center, honorable mention in Division 1. The ‘Cats since their season opener have defeated Byron Center twice.
Then I thought back to my first year at Albion, in the fall of 1976. Albion College was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the latest NCAA Division III football poll. But it was learned that an ancient MIAA rule forbade the Britons to compete in the post-season playoffs.
In the next poll the following week, Albion’s standing sank like a stone.
Then came Hal (Swami) Schram’s rating Albion High School No. 2 in Class B football. The Wildcats had some off a 2-7 season, lost in overtime to Class A Portage Northern and then upset perennial power Sturgis.
The Swami was impressed, but Albion went on to post a 2-7 record again.
In 1983, the Albion High School basketball team was absent entirely from the ratings, despite a 19-1 season record and its only loss to Class A Battle Creek Central. High School Principal Albert Meloy very skillfully got on the phone to the Detroit Free Press and offered an apology for not letting the Free Press know about what the Wildcats had accomplished.
The following week Albion checked in at No. 2 in the state.
So it appears that ratings are really quite flawed as a measurement of the quality of team performance. They are influenced too heavily by factors such as whom you know and how good you are at public relations. Kinda like politics.
I’ve known many coaches who scoff at the weekly ratings, noting perceptively that what really matters most is who is left standing at the end of the season.
Coach Cheri Ritz and Wildcats, take note.