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Murph’s Turf: 10 sports stories for 2012

Anniversaries, inductions, controversies and a superstorm were all parts of the Ridgefield sports scene in 2012. Following is a list of 10 of the year’s most memorable stories and events, presented in no particular order.

1. 2012 included an event that female athletes in Ridgefield and across the country could share in celebrating: The 40th anniversary of Title IX. The landmark federal legislation, which former President Richard Nixon signed into law in 1972, has taken women’s sports from bit player to leading role, creating swaths of opportunity for female athletes since its inception. Back in 1972, the Ridgefield High yearbook ran photos of girls playing field hockey and basketball and cheerleading at boys’ games. In the 2011-12 school year, female students at RHS had access to 30 teams in 16 sports. It was just as many teams (and one more sport) than the boys had, and further proof that a once-tilted sports landscape is getting level enough to stand on. Or, in this case, dance upon.

2. As a player at Syracuse University in the 1990s, Roy Colsey once visited the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame. From now on, though, he will have a permanent presence. Colsey, a former college All-American and professional All-Star who is the coach of the Ridgefield High boys lacrosse team, was a member of the Hall of Fame’s 2012 induction class. “He was everything that any coach would want,” said former Syracuse men’s lacrosse coach Roy Simmons Jr. during his induction speech for Colsey. “Mediocrity is not in his language.”

3. Another person with Ridgefield connections wasn’t as fortunate when it came to the enshrinement process. Daniel “Doc” Adams, a retired physician and baseball pioneer, who moved to Ridgefield in the late 1800s and became the first president of the Ridgefield Savings Bank, was the subject of a petition drive by the Hartford-based Friends of Vintage Base Ball. The group was hoping to muster enough support to get Adams noticed by the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Historical Overview Committee, which screens candidates for possible induction as Pre-Integration (1947) selections. Adams, a member of the famed New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club, is credited with instituting several rules changes that are still used today, including nine innings for a full game, nine players per team, and 90-feet between bases. Adams, alas, did not make the final cut from which three candidates were chosen for induction next year.

4. Most Americans don’t follow the sport of luge, except for perhaps a few days every four years. Ridgefielders, however, have a reason to start paying attention now. At the USA Luge national championships earlier this year, 17-year-old Tucker West became one of the youngest-ever national champs when he tied 2010 Olympian Chris Mazdzer for first place in the men’s singles competition. West, a Ridgefield resident who attends the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid N.Y., was named as one of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 12 top teems for 2012, joining household names such as Missy Franklin and Gabby Douglas.

5. First came Handshake Gate. Then came Scheduling Gate. After several Ridgefield High boys basketball players did not shake hands with St. Joseph head coach Vito Montelli prior to a regular-season game, online blogs buzzed with comments both critical (poor sportsmanship) and supportive (the RHS players didn’t approach Montelli because he was in a huddle with his own players). That was only the kindling. When the CIAC decided to move the Ridgefield-St. Joseph state quarterfinal game from the St. Joseph gym in Trumbull to a bigger neutral site in order to accommodate more fans, the Internet was ablaze with Cadets’ supporters accusing Ridgefield head coach (and Athletic Director) Carl Charles of suggesting the idea to state officials out of gamesmanship. An irate Montelli and the St. Joseph contingent didn’t get the resolution they wanted — the CIAC not only stuck with its decision to move the contest but also switched several other quarterfinal games to neutral sites — but they did get the result: A 56-37 victory over the Tigers, followed by two more wins and a second-straight state title.

6. In a year in which many Ridgefield High coaching positions changed hands, Paul Fabbri was a one-man coaching carousel. Several months after resigning as head coach of the RHS girls hockey team, Fabbri was chosen as head coach of the RHS baseball team. The hire surprised most Ridgefielders, who knew of Fabbri as a hockey coach and teacher at RHS but had no idea of his substantial baseball background. A former player at Notre Dame-Fairfield, Fabbri was the varsity head coach there for 14 seasons, winning state titles in 2004 and 2009. “Several people told me the best candidate for the (baseball) job was in the building,” said Carl Charles when Fabbri was chosen. “A lot of people just didn’t know he was already in the building.”

7. National Geographic Wild’s Big Cat Week may need to expand next year: The Tiger’s Lair is worthy of a segment. Formed by a group of seniors ahead of the 2011-12 RHS boys basketball season, the raucous student section has become a boisterous sixth man for the Tigers, chanting and cheering in an inventive (and mostly civilized) manner while wearing same-colored T-shirts (announced prior to games on social media sites). “I’m not sure what you could call the Tiger’s Lair,” said Ian Word, one of the founders., during an interview with The Press last season. “It’s almost like an unofficial rebellion.”

8. Sometimes, winning just isn’t enough. You need keepsakes. Following a 3-1 victory over the RHS boys volleyball team, Staples players boarded the bus back to Westport with smiles, satisfaction and loot. According to Ridgefield coaches and parents, the Wreckers departed with several RHS custom-ordered volleyballs and warm-up jerseys. A call to the police from a Ridgefield parent led to the Staples’ bus being pulled over on Route 7 for inspection. The warm-up jerseys were recovered, but not the volleyballs.

9. Superstorm Sandy put area sports in their place, postponing the Brooklyn Nets first-ever home game and canceling (eventually) the New York City Marathon. The Fairfield County high school sports season was also interrupted, most noticeably — and oddly — the conference playoffs. Unplayable conditions led to delays that resulted in organizers trimming the post-season tournaments in several sports, with semifinal winners being named co-champions. One of those asterisked co-champs was the Ridgefield High boys soccer team, which earned a share of the conference title after winning its semifinal game.

10. Football-related concussions were a hot topic throughout 2012. Concerned about health risks, many parents debated whether or not to encourage, or even allow, their children to play football. The nation’s biggest youth football program, Pop Warner, announced practice changes aimed at minimizing contact among players. But the local Fairfield County Football League, in which Ridgefield teams play, decided it was already progressive enough in regards to concussion policy and opted not to make any adjustments.

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