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ISSUE 120 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/23/2007

Inside the Lines: End of an era

By Matt Tiano
Executive Editor
and Ryan Maus
Staff Writer

Friday, February 23, 2007

There is a manifesto entitled “"Why We Play Division III Sports"” that has been circulating around Facebook, AOL Instant Messenger profiles and various websites over the past few years. By now, many of you have probably encountered the piece (it was originally published in a small college newspaper, much like this one), but if you haven't, here's a short excerpt: "It's not about getting a scholarship, getting drafted, or making SportsCenter. It's a deep need in us that comes from the heart. It's about pride - in ourselves, in our school. It's about our love and passion for the game. And when it's over, when we walk off that court or field for the last time, our hearts crumble. Those tears are real. But deep down inside, we are very proud of ourselves. We will forever be what few can claim ... College athletes."

Your personal thoughts on sappy sports prose aside, it's tough to deny the truth behind those words. And anyone who was in the [St. Thomas gym] on Wednesday night saw a real life example of the pride, the love and the passion of which the author spoke.

There was Jon Bain '07 clawing on the floor for a loose ball. There was Mark Bergstrom '07 hitting a fadeaway jump shot from the corner. And there was John Butala '07 twisting around two defenders in midair before kissing one off the glass.

Those three seniors have been the heart and soul of St. Olaf's men's basketball team, and Wednesday night in St. Paul, their careers came to an unceremonious end at the hands of a freakishly talented Tommie squad. A small but raucous group of Ole faithful made the trek, hoping to see another improbable upset – unfortunately, it simply was not to be.

Yet for St. Olaf's version of the “Killer Bs,” their time together off the court has been just as meaningful as their time on it.

“As seniors, we've gotten really close over the past four years – that stands out to me even more than the basketball aspect,” Bergstrom said about the bond the three seniors have formed since arriving on campus in 2003. “The connection that we share off the basketball court has really meant a lot to all three of us.”

For the man behind it all, head coach Dan Kosmoski, even the Oles' short-lived playoff run has meant a lot.

“Monday night, that was as fun a MIAC game as could be,” Kosmoski said. “We won, which we are obviously pleased with, but the real story was the leadership shown by our three seniors, offensively, defensively and on the boards. And that's as much as I could ask for.”

Matt e-mailed Coach Tuesday afternoon hoping to speak to him about the win over Bethel. “Koz” responded with a near-immediate phone call, saying that he would “be more than happy” to do a quick interview, his excitement clearly audible over the phone. Immediately upon entering his office, Koz found his remote and said, “"You have got to check this out”" as Bain's dramatic game-winner was replayed on his office television.

“"Koz isn't afraid to show his emotions,”" Butala said. “"You can usually look at his face to tell how he's feeling. He wears his emotions on his sleeve.”"

Maybe it's because Koz understands the essence of Division III sports: heart, passion, and love.

Win or lose, it's a lot more than just a game.





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