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The Punishment Is the Crime
Rick Reilly
November 26, 2007
The smallest-brained crustaceans are water fleas. The smallest-brained parasites are flatworms. And the smallest-brained mammals are the men and women who run high school athletics in the state of Washington.
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November 26, 2007

The Punishment Is The Crime

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The smallest-brained crustaceans are water fleas. The smallest-brained parasites are flatworms. And the smallest-brained mammals are the men and women who run high school athletics in the state of Washington.

Listen to what they did, and tell me it doesn't make you want to chew through concrete.

Archbishop Murphy High in Everett opened the football season this fall with a dying coach, the legendary Terry Ennis, whose 287 wins are second most in state history. The school had begged him to come out of retirement seven years ago to kick-start the Wildcats' new football program and be the athletic director.

Ennis then did what he'd been doing for 29 years. He turned Archbishop Murphy's kids into young men who wear ties and look you in the eye and win football games. He won two state titles and went 73-12 in his first seven seasons with the Wildcats.

But before this one, Ennis told his players that his prostate cancer had a hold of him, bad. He was going to keep working, though, because Terry Ennis would rather have worn a tutu than quit on his team. Coaching sometimes from a chair, he won the first two games, then died three days later.

"We sat in that locker room and cried for hours," says senior co-captain Ryan Bourke, "and we all talked about how we wanted to win state for him."

And so they won their next seven games--under Ennis's brother-in-law Rick Stubrud--then won a district qualifier and got ready for state.

But then fell a tiny little raindrop that turned into the Johnstown Flood.

Two weeks ago, new co-athletic director Patti Means was looking over players' physical-exam certificates--sifting through all of Ennis's cartons and confusion as she took over some of his old duties--and discovered one player whose physical had not been updated.

Pretty understandable mistake. The guy in charge of those kinds of things died four days after the kid's physical expired. Plus, this kid's home life was going through a blender. His mom had moved to Yakima, his dad was gone, and he was living with friends. Stuff tends to slip through cracks that big.

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