Better than a Championship

Invincible Bobcats helped resurrect a community

This morning, I suspect the players and coaches of the Paradise High School Bobcats are unhappy, but they should be proud.

What they gave the communities of the Paradise Ridge is something better than a Championship. I hope they know it. Through their disappointment, I hope they hear this.

In researching for Three Days in Paradise, I’ve come across dozens of old west mining towns in Butte County’s early days. Most of them are unknown.

I’ve found one thing separates settlements which become communities and those that fade into ghost towns. It’s schools.

All budding towns open bars, general stores, hotels and even a town hall. It’s the ones with schools that remain. Schools aren’t for the towns of today. They and their students are the town of tomorrow… the citizens, leaders, business people who will enrich and improve the town long after all the founders are gone.

Schools and the families they make possible, are the thing that separates a collection of buildings from a civilized town. Schools are how a town shows hope.

In the days, weeks and months after the fire, I interviewed dozens and met hundreds of survivors, recovery workers and public and private leaders. On camera and off they talked about, worried about, wondered about whether a community like Paradise could rise from the blow we had taken.

Yes, people vowed to rebuild, some businesses opened, but in whispers and wonders from across the spectrum I heard real worries from smart, informed people about the possibility Paradise would fade.

Then the schools re-opened in August, and it was a good sign.

But for many, it was the first game of the Bobcat’s Football Season on August 23 which made what remained of Paradise feel like what we remembered of Paradise. As survivors watched, coached and played in ame after game, our battered optimism reasserted itself.

Listening to the cheers of the crowds, watching the exploits of Harrison and Blood, Bettencourt and Hartly, Velasquez and everyone else made Paradise feel like a hopeful, happy place again. Through every regular season game, they won, finishing with a 10-0 record.

Their run helped us remember we could do this. We could clear the debris, claw through the heartache and remember those we had lost, and could have a town that felt like a place again. The Bobcats brought our eyes to the horizon again and let reminded us there is something more than ash in the future.

So they the players and coaches may not have gone to where they wanted to go this year.

But they gave us all something more dear. To do that you have to be something better than a champion.

You have to be Paradise Invincible.


2 thoughts on “Better than a Championship

  1. During the game we had our family together in Oklahoma reading aloud the updates to the game on my phone. As I watched I couldn’t help but see everyone across the nation who had been displaced or had family displaced, posting online with a ” go bobcats” from everywhere in the U.S.!

    This band of brothers should know that although the score might not have shown it, they worked hard to overcome all odds to not lose the sport they enjoyed together. They did not fail.

    The score might not have been in their favor this game. But look what they have achieved. They have succeeded in bringing a school, a community, and friends and family from Paradise across the nation together for a season, to forget the past and appreciate a group of young men who refused to just give up and accept what they were dealt, and instead put out sweat and effort toward a goal. These men have learned a lot more about how to handle life than many their age and some much older. Go Bobcats! Go Paradise!
    We, the Ridgerunner nation, are all very proud and inspired!

    Phil Ingram – PHS class of 75
    Broken Arrow, Ok

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