Many coaches treat it as a four-letter word. Should they? After all, luck is part of every sport and luck's coattails come calling in nearly every game. In some games, it plays a pivotal role; in others it's a side benefit in a win or another annoyance in a loss.
Coaches don't like even to acknowledge its existence because luck -- either way -- can wreck plans and diminish the role of the hard work by student-athletes. Isn't sports supposed to be about learning skills and acquiring a sense of teamwork within the framework of enjoyment? Nasty creature, Lady Luck.
Let's look at its handiwork thus far in 2013:
The Fairfield Ludlowe football team is off to its finest start since Fairfield High School split into Warde and Ludlowe. Give credit to first-year coach Vince Camera and his staff, the largest in program history. Sure. They are doing a good job, maybe even a great job. The coaching staff, though, will be the first to say the praise belongs to the players. It has been their toil, their battered bodies making play after play.
But would they be 3-1 without a little luck? They lead Harding by 29-13 in the fourth quarter last Saturday, but the Presidents storm back and take a 31-29 lead on a blocked punt for a touchdown. Ludlowe is reeling. But on its first play from scrimmage following the lead change, luck smiles down on the Falcons. Matt White sends a pass downfield. Michael Arman cannot quite grab it, the ball bounces off a defender, then bops Falcons' wide receiver Patrick O'Leary in his face mask. Where does the ball go next? To the ground? It lands in Arman's hands. He does not have to reach for it even a smidgeon. Just plops right on down in his mitts. With the gift ball in his hands, he storms into the end zone, a triple-deflection touchdown. How rare. Lead restored. But bad luck for Harding.
Ludlowe protects the lead and wins. That goes to the Falcons' determination and character. It's a resiliency that has not been the signature of recent Falcons' football teams. This is all true. But replay that pass from Matt White 100 times and see what the results would be. Maybe Arman would score on 50 of those do-overs, but not again on the ball glancing off one player to the next and so on. Was it a lucky win? That's not fair. Let's just say Ludlowe left with a deserved hard-fought win but in which luck played its part.
Across town, luck has been delivered to a different reception for the Warde football team. The Mustangs' eight-game losing streak that began in 2012 came to an end with a 13-7 victory over Trinity Catholic on Sept. 27 in town. Luck played no extraordinary role in the win. But with Warde's sights now set on building a winning streak -- perhaps the Mustangs dare -- they do not catch a break.
The schedule-makers aligned three of the FCIAC's four perennial powers to be played in a four-game stretch that follows the Mustangs' win. And the team not in the Gang of Four, Wilton, is only 3-1. The week after Warde's win, New Canaan won 45-21. This Friday Darien (3-1) visits, with Wilton and Greenwich (2-2) to follow. That's bad luck.
In the Warde-Ludlowe girls soccer rivalry showdown last Friday, was luck at Taft Field in the stands just chillin'? No, luck visited the pitch. The Falcons won 1-0 but the game's only goal was not on a pretty play, no artistry, skill or crafty tactic involved as the ball nestled into the goal. Coach Kate Dawson, of the Falcons, said she hadn't had a chance to watch the match yet on tape, so she wasn't sure. But it appeared as though the ball went into the Warde net off of a Warde defender -- an own goal. Good luck for the Falcons, bad luck for the Mustangs. Luck's arrival can beckon tears ... and joy.
We know this: luck will return. The questions are when, why, how often and with how much impact. Be strong if fortune for one team and not the other does not come as a favor; be grateful if it does.
After all, wasn't it some sage sports executive who said luck is the residue of design.
Thanks for the obvious Mr. Branch Rickey, who ran the Brooklyn Dodgers decades ago and broke the color barrier.
email@example.com; 203-255-4561 ext. 113; twitter.com/Reid Walmark