Every time I think about what has transpired with the Elkins High School football team the past two days, my heart aches for every player and coach involved.
Radio talk show hosts across the state spent hours of airtime Thursday taking calls from outraged listeners expressing their sympathies for the Elkins players.
Newspapers as far away as the San Francisco Chronicle ran Associated Press coverage of the EHS?football story.
On Thursday it seemed that anywhere you went in Elkins, people were talking about what happened to the Tigers.
And it didn't end with face-to-face chit-chat, as EHS supporters also took to social networking to voice their opinions.
One Facebook user, 1975 Elkins High School graduate Anita Hanifan, created a photo of the team with a Tiger logo and words at the bottom proclaiming "we support our team." She is encouraging others to use the design on their pages to show support.
"I think what's happening to our football team is unjust and unfair, and that's why I put up the photo," Hanifan told The Inter-Mountain. "Those kids have put their heart and soul into every game, and to be stripped of wins is a bunch of bull!"
The hard work put forth by everyone associated with the Elkins High School football program essentially has gone to waste because the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission stripped the Tigers of their seven wins after a player was ruled ineligible Wednesday.
When contemplating what has happened, one phrase keeps popping up in my head: "Rules are rules." I can't identify who is scolding me. Possibly a parent? Maybe a former coach. But the best guess is that it was one of my many school teachers I tortured back in the early years.
Whoever it was, I just can't put a face with the "rules are rules" tongue-lashing that is being directed at me in my faded memories.
But just like back then, I'm going to agree to disagree and scream at the top of lungs, "No, they're not."
I just can't see how the punishment fits the crime in this instance. Sure, a rule was broken, but to destroy the dreams of so many, for something as simple as a piece of paper, seems a tad extreme in this writer's eyes.
According to information gathered, a waiver form wasn't turned in to the WVSSAC by EHS?officials. A simple sheet of paper that somehow got mixed into the miles and miles of paperwork administrators have to filter through didn't make it to its destination in Charleston.
For that, 34 players and seven coaches have had everything they worked so hard for taken from them.
I could see a punishment of this sort if the player in question was 20 years old, played one year of college football and had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
I could also see it if the player was recruited to play at Elkins. Or if he didn't have the grades to play and did anyway.
But the aforementioned circumstances don't fit this player's profile, nor the coaching staff's. He was just a kid who relocated to the area, from out of state, to live with another member of his family.
And what's more, he wasn't even going to play football when he moved to Elkins.
So understandably, supporters of the Fighting Tigers are upset, and well they should be.
A court injunction may be filed in an attempt to keep Elkins' wins and restore the player in question's eligibility.
Hopefully everything works out in Elkins High School's favor. If not, it will be a season to remember for all the wrong reasons.