The morning of Alison's last 5-6th grade basketball game, Coach Reed said, "You know, I was on a team that didn't win a game all year. If those girls have as much fun as they did last time (23-2 loss) I can handle it."
Captain Coach Reed is not an uncompetitive man. If there's a way to keep score, he'll find it. If there's a sliver of a chance in hell he can win at something, he'll brave the gates of Hades. The first baseman on his softball team once got hit in the head by a line drive as he was running bases. The ball knocked him unconscious. When he came to, he was blind.
"So who took him to the hospital," I asked when Jeff was relaying why he was late getting home.
"Hospital? After a while he could see so we had him play catch."
That's right. They finished the game before they took the poor sap to get medical care. They're all still playing every summer.
Alison does not have that same drive when it comes to sports, and none of her teammates seem to be killers either. After their first game, Jeff was replaying the game to me even though I'd watched it.
"Did you HEAR them? Did you HEAR them?" he exclaimed. "Even when we were getting the snot kicked out of us, they were cheering each other on! You can do it. They were HAVING FUN."
He shook his head. Coaching boys was so much more natural. It was also CYO so there wasn't audible cursing, but there was pain. There was frustration. There was agony. Stuff the Captain could understand.
So game two for the Christ the King Tigers comes along Sunday. He's not optimistic but he's got his game face on.
And it was as if the girls were possessed. They still had fun, but they weren't intimidated by the other team. They hustled. They waved their hands and stole the ball and shot the ball and rebounded the ball. We actually led for most of the game. Alison scored her first goal, barely missed a 3-point shot that was actually a planned play, and racked up two personal fouls.
Ultimately, they lost by one point. In double OT. (That's free basketball, folks.) As the first OT went into the second, Helen Mansfield called his attention and said, "Hey coach. Annalise hasn't played very much yet. Can she go in for me?"
I'm certain that a part of his brain just shut down.
The shot that won the game for the other team was the second free throw attempt by the enemy. She'd air-balled the first one, which gave everyone on our side great hope.
But no one on the bleachers knew we were in a sudden death situation -- the first team to score would win no matter how much time was left. The girls knew. The coaches knew. The two girls on the our bench fell down stunned, groaning when the ball went in. The parents were all confused at the cheers from the other team and the dismay by ours.
The Captain? Well, the Captain took it really well. He slapped a smile on his face and he looked at the girls, I'm sure prepared to lift them up from the depths of despair.
But they had had fun! Sure it was better than last week, but losing again didn't make them give up. Our parents gave the game a W regardless of the final score.
We're all super excited for tonight's game. I just wonder which team will show up.
Jeff's post-game note to the parents was really nice. He said the girls "played their hearts out yesterday. Team spirit,
especially support for each other, is just fabulous to watch."
Personally, I think Jeff might be learning more than the girls.