Welcome back for Part Two of this jaunt down memory lane. If you missed part one, make sure you check it out. Before we get back to the countdown, just a quick clarification – I’m recounting moments, and nothing more vague. Generally, the formula goes something like this: Remember that time when _______ [insert memory here]. For example, we could call #10 on this list Remember That Time When Loftus Tried to Jump The Fence During Manhunt and Almost Lost His…
With that being said, let us move on down the list. We pick things up at number seven.
#7 Heartbreak Hill
Many, if not most Holy Cross students played at least one varsity sport in high school. Our most gifted athletes make up our Division I varsity teams, and just a tier or two below are the Club team kids. But alas, what about the rest of us? Well that’s where intramurals come into play.
Intramurals. For some of us, just the word itself sends shivers down the spine. These leagues are designed for the common athlete. The recreational competitor. The gym class almost-hero. Or at least that’s what they say.
True, the level of competition is not on the same plane or even in the same universe as the Varsity sports. But let’s make one thing clear – intramurals are nothing to sneeze at. My freshman friends and I found this out the hard way on our first year, and the trials and tribulations we endured were almost comical at times. Let’s have a brief recap of each intramural season that I competed in, starting with first semester.
(Note: All of my teams were comprised of the same kids for the most part. Every one of us played a high school varsity sport, about half of us were captains of our teams, and a few of us made All-State teams or won state titles. The point? It was not our first time competing, which will be important to remember as you scroll through the defeats that follow.)
There’s a nip in the air that wakes up the hair on my neck as I step outside of Wheeler. My ankle pulses in its brace and the competitive juices are shooting through my veins. This was it. This was our first form of intramural competition. As I glance around at my teammates in their makeshift uniforms I see a band of brothers. We haven’t known each other for long, but we’re ready to go to battle together.
The hill to Freshman Field is steep, and the grass is wet. My friend, and our team’s quarterback, Tom, slides down the hill like a four year-old. I’m embarrassed. The rest of us make it to the bottom like adults and we begin to warm up. The referee calls out for the teams, and we all assemble. I’m slightly nervous since I didn’t play football in high school, but I figure I’m decently built and athletic enough that flag football shouldn’t be too horrific.
Team by team is called out and matched against its opponent. When everyone else is gone, my team stands alone with a group of men who look older for their age than Greg Oden. Slowly and hauntingly, the realization that these behemoths are our opponents sets in. One of them burps. I’m standing close enough to catch a whiff of his breath. It reeks of dead freshmen. I bend down to tighten my ankle brace and think about how awesome it would be to still be in bed. But the way things look, I might be back under the covers before long…except in a hospital instead of my dorm room. Too late now.
At halftime we’re down 21-7. It’s not a total slaughter, but we’re physically overmatched. Our halftime talk goes something like this:
Tom: I have no time in the pocket. I’m never going to find anyone who’s open if I have to run for my life.
Greg (in native Bronx accent): Well, Tom, I’m sorry I can’t block these guys. I think I just saw my dad on their team.
We step back on the field. I try to ignore the fact that the members of the other team had shown up clean-shaven and now they all have full beards.
Somehow, my team manages to chip away at the lead, and at the end of regulation we’re tied at 28. All of our hope is deflated though when the He-Men march the ball down our throats and score the winning touchdown. And that, my friends is just a microcosm of our season.
Against all odds, we made the playoffs. We started to believe in ourselves. We booked pedicures so that our glass slipper would look fantastic as we slipped it on and completed our Cinderella story. We were so wrong. We lost in the first round, 60-6. So much for flag football. But at least we had floor hockey to look forward to…
Let’s not beat around the bush here. We sucked at floor hockey. Only two of our players had any hockey experience whatsoever, and it seemed like Canada was smuggling superstars across the border every game just to kick the snot out of us.
I played a year of JV in high school and Loftus had some varsity experience. Other than that, we planned to rely on hustle and pure athleticism to pick up the slack. Another stupid idea. I shot the lights out in our first game, Dan played to his full potential, and we still got absolutely torched. One kid on the other team took particular pride in tearing our intramural hearts out. He must have scored 40 by himself. I think our entire team scored 48. It was like that scene from Gladiator when Russell Crowe destroys everything in his path and then calls out everyone in the crowd just for good measure.
We pulled out a few victories, but once again suffered a first round exit from the playoffs. We had just one final hope…
If there were ever a sport we could truly compete in, this was it. For once, we were good at something. We lost just two games and made the playoffs with ease. We marched to the finals. We took no prisoners. We had found our sport. In the championship we jumped out to a four run lead. A new taste started to formulate on our tongues. It was unfamiliar. Most of us hadn’t experienced it since high school. It was victory.
Too bad we blew the lead in the last inning and lost by one.
We’ll get ’em next year.
#6 Dan Loses More Blood
One sport that I didn’t cover in #7 was soccer. As a matter of fact, our soccer team was pretty competitive. I wasn’t actually a member of the team, so I left it out, but my friends held their own on the pitch. But it was the image of Dan holding something else that grabs the spotlight and earns the sixth slot on the countdown.
He was holding his ear.
I was in my room finishing up some work one night when my phone rang. It was around 11 and no one was around because all of my friends were busy with intramural soccer. I was surprised to see Dan’s name pop up on the caller I.D. since he’s one of the fiercest players on the team.
“Hey, Danny…uhhhh…are you busy?”
“Not really, what’s going on?”
“You want to come with me to the hospital?”
When I climbed in the Public Safety car I saw a grimacing Dan holding his ear. His shirt was soaked in blood, which was also caking up on his face and neck. It still isn’t clear to me how it happened, but somehow a metal cleat sliced through the upper ear and required stitches.
I was somewhat excited to be along for the journey to the hospital, and we decided to make the best of a bloody situation. Since everyone back on campus was concerned about Dan’s well-being, I decided to chronicle our experiences with my Blackberry camera and upload the pictures to Facebook to let everyone know our progress.
After a wait that we’ll file under “Long Enough,” we made it into a room.
#5 Kimball’s Last Hoorah
I did work-study in Kimball for my first two semesters. I liked it enough that I applied, and was accepted, to be a captain for my three remaining years. I met a lot of interesting people and saw a lot of interesting things. Number five will elaborate.
It was my last shift of the year, which meant it was the last shift ever for two of my senior captains. We had all worked shifts that we hadn’t wanted to work. We had all scraped sticky food off of dirty dishes. Most of us had broken dishes, spilled drinks, or gotten locked in the cleaning supply closet at one point or another (okay, maybe the last one was just me). Needless to say, we all felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that we had survived a year in Kimball. Needless to say, the seniors wanted to leave their mark and go out on top.
It had been a fun shift to begin with. We took a four minute and fourteen second break to line up and do the Macarena, ignoring the dirty dishes sliding past us, getting lost in the music. We took a popsicle break. It was the last shift of the year, we had earned it.
It was during the last fifteen minutes that I noticed something was wrong. All of the extra food was coming in, and for some reason it wasn’t being disposed of like it normally would. One of my co-workers pointed this out to me. I knew immediately what was coming.
I grabbed an extra tray off the counter just as I saw it happening in my peripheral. A hand was reaching down into tub of food and scooping it out. I covered my face with the tray. I absorbed the impact as the ‘splat’ of coleslaw against my plastic shield echoed throughout the kitchen. And then came the two words that every young child dreams of hearing.
The rest is a blur in my mind. I remember crawling under the pulper. I remember throwing chunks of Jell-O like grenades at the graduates-to-be. I try not to remember that we had to clean up the mess when it was all over.
In the end it all comes down to memories, and every month or so when I discover a fleck of mashed potato on my neck or a chunk of broccoli lodged in my ear, I remember how it got there. I remember the last shift of the year.
Check back soon for the conclusion of the countdown. The final four promises everything from a winter disaster to a feud among friends that no one will ever forget. You don’t want to miss it.