As a reporter who covered prep sports for more than 20 years at The Baltimore Sun, I have written about thousands of games and talked with just as many coaches afterward.
In a recent game story from the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference girls soccer championship earlier this month -- an extremely well-played game by both teams that ended with McDonogh defeating Archbishop Spalding, 2-1 -- Spalding coach Ashly Kennedy's response to a question about the game seems to have been grossly misinterpreted by some readers, and became subject of a letter to the editor that appeared in our newspaper.
Kennedy is quoted as saying: "To be honest, McDonogh brings talent, we have blue-collar kids and all I can ask from them is what they brought in the second half ... "
I understood exactly what she was implying, because I have seen both teams play this season and also have heard coaches in various sports speak the same words many times over the years. But some readers were offended by Kennedy's characterization of McDonogh having "talent" and Spalding being "blue collar."
The only thing I thought Kennedy was referring to was the season, the game and what she saw from the two teams' play on the field.
Harry Canellakis, the McDonogh girls soccer coach, thought the same thing. While some readers were offended by Kennedy's comment, Canellakis said he saw no harm and that his opponent was simply using "coaching lingo."
"My interpretation of the quote wasn't anything other than the fact that her players worked hard," said Canellakis, who also received feedback regarding Kennedy's quote. "So I read it as a compliment of her players, that they had a high work rate during the game, which was true."
This year, the supremely talented McDonogh team included two All-Americans and one player that was named to the All-South region team.
In past years, Spalding has had its share of players that have earned similar accolades.
But this season's team, while very skilled, did not have the same high-profile players, and thus relied on hard work and exceptional teamwork to reach the championship game. The term "blue collar" is commonly used in sports and by coaches at all levels to describe teams that rely on that work for success.
Kennedy’s comment had nothing to do with anything off the playing field -- certainly not social standing. Any other interpretation of Kennedy's comments is a misunderstanding. Canellakis agrees.
"Coaches in all sports [use the "blue-collar" term.] The Ravens and Steelers are considered to be ‘blue collar’ teams," he said. "It's coaching lingo."