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Atomic City Update: NMSU proves anything is possible in sports

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By Phil Scherer

As I watched college football bowl games over the past few weeks, there were plenty of exciting stories and unbelievable performances.

However, the best story of them all came from our home state, and proved that in sports, anything really is possible.

For the first time in 57 years, the New Mexico State University football team won a bowl game. It’s a sight that many people thought was impossible. For years, the program has been stuck in neutral, unable to recruit players with much talent and forced to use outdated facilities on a daily basis.

After winning no more than four games since 2004, the team rebounded this year with six wins, earning a bowl bid against Utah State in the Arizona Bowl.

And despite trailing 20-13 late in the game, the Aggies rallied to tie the score, and won 26-20 in overtime.

Obviously, this is a big moment for NMSU and all of its loyal supporters, but I think it also reminds all of us that with patience and a good game plan, any program can be turned around.

Becoming complacent with mediocre play is something seen far too often in sports. The examples are endless. In the NFL, the Cleveland Browns are in a constant rebuild, and have been for nearly two decades.

In the NBA, teams like the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic have fallen into this trap, and have been noncompetitive for years.

In baseball, teams like the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners are in similar bad spots, and the thread between all of these teams is clear. There is no focused game plan, and very little sustained patience from management groups.

It’s an issue that is even more important at the high school level, where athletic directors and coaches are unable to handpick the players on their teams. They are forced to mold the players available to them to fit into their specific systems.

But if a school sticks to that system long enough, and develops players well, the results are sure to follow. NMSU proved that progress is possible, no matter how dire the situation may seem.

Locally, there are a few programs at Los Alamos High School that seem to have been stuck in neutral for quite a while, or have recently fallen into a bit of a rough stretch. For most of the past decade, the football team has been stuck with losing records. This year, the team accomplished its first winning record since 2012.

My hope is that, by sticking with the system in place, and the pipeline of players coming up, the football team will continue to make strides. In their case, it appears the patience shown is paying off.

There are other programs going through a rebuilding phase at LAHS right now as well, including volleyball and girls basketball. Both have a history of great success, and have recently fallen into a bit of a tough time.

The key thing is that people at the school can’t allow this to become the new normal. Systems have to be put in place to return programs like these to prominence.

In sports, no situation is hopeless. No matter how long a period of struggle goes on for, it can end.

I’m sure NMSU fans would have appreciated if they didn’t have to wait nearly 60 years between bowl victories, but now they have a memory that they will never forget.

Their patience was rewarded. The plan worked. Anything really is possible.