Saturday, January 31, 2009

Where's My 15 Minutes of Fame?

After this 100-0 blowout blog I started thinking about the worst blowout in which I’ve had a part. It was a tough call, but the award goes to a time when I was assistant coach (most often referred to as Ass Coach, but I digress) for North Lake College womens volleyball team.

First a little background:

We played Wiley College located in Marshall, TX. It’s a Historically Black College (I think that’s the proper terminology). Ed Garza, our volleyball head coach had scheduled a last minute match with them at their place. None of us had ever heard of Wiley College, much less knew that it was an all black, athletic intense school. So off to Marshall we go, in our brand new shiny white team bus, which I was carefully driving; brand new uniforms, of which I had neatly folded and handed out; with a bag of brand new volleyballs, which I had affectionately aired up; and each player had $15 per diem meal money, which I had miserly counted out. The proud and mighty Lady Blazers, seven pampered little white girls, Coach Ed and me.

On the warm, sunny fall afternoon, rolling through the historically beautiful, but somewhat neglected campus of threadbare dorm and classroom buildings, students relaxed outdoors, boom boxes thumped and eyes of intimidation glared as we passed. It reminded me of the time I was lost in LA and ended up in a 7-11 after midnight in South Central….again,I digress. We were out of place.

As we crept into the packed gym, the rhythmic call-back cheer of “who we gonna beat?, here they come!, who we gonna beat?, here they come!” was almost as intimidating as the twenty-two skilled volleyball players that were running a spike drill, RIGHT AT US! From lines on the left and right the sizzle of the spiked balls quickly turned what little rigidity was left in our spines to a low, flinching and ducking hunch. Their masterfully planned tactics were already hard at work.

We found little relief in the sincere, warm and welcoming introduction and handshake from the coaches…all SEVEN of them. They were large confident men, perhaps former football linemen or Army Special Forces. They had huge hands. After being escorted to our closet sized locker room, we had an unscheduled lengthy moment, or five, of silence. Two of our girls were already crying. I forgot my name.

After a brief and unconvincing pep talk from Ed, I with clipboard in hand, as I always did, sprinted in lead from the locker room to the bench, to toss the ball to our team captain for warm-up drills. As I spun to lob the ball…panic attacked! WHAT! Where are the girls? Where’s Coach Ed? Deep breath, “What’s-Your-Name”…I’m sweating, my ears are ringing; the bitter-sour wretched bile tangoed with the back of my tongue. The gym spun, I with blurred tunnel vision and wearing a Lady Blazers warm-up jacket. For the first time since our arrival, the thunderous gym suddenly fell silent. The only sound was a slow, deep rumble in my stomach. Quiet gymnasiums reverberate.

Back in the closet an impromptu team meeting, of which I didn’t get the notification memo, it was decided to wisely eschewed warm-up drills. The rest was a blur. But I remember a few things. I remember Ed asking me what time it was when the first service whistle blew. I also remembered us only serving twice DURING THE WHOLE MATCH (this was before rally scoring). One of our serves was lost in the net. One serve didn’t reach the net. One of our girls got hit in the face with a seemingly rocket launched serve. Time out was called to clean the tear-drenched mascara and bright red lipstick from the ball. We had to put in our only reserve player who was beginning to cry. Again.

It seemed like an eternity, but was actually 22 minutes from start to finish, 15-0, 15-0. 22 minutes. Certainly Guinness has been notified.

Amid the victory chants of the full-house gymnasium the Wiley girl’s team bench emptied and ran to our players shaking hands and eventually hugging, drying tears and consoling as only female athletes can. The coaches crossed the floor for the obligatory handshake and it was quickly decided that the rematch scheduled at our place in two weeks would be cancelled. Cost of travel, budgets, potential inclement weather, midterms…etc. was cited.

After Ed’s calming pep talk, we left the gym with our heads held high, albeit more quickly at step, to our shiny white team bus where I had already stored our still brand new volleyballs along with our brand new duffle bags containing our still brand new and neatly refolded uniforms. Once the doors were secured, seat belts fastened, the squeals commenced, and stories were told, some even true, about how victory was snatched from our grasp by the referees mistakes. What a great team of athletes we had almost upset that day. Happiness prevailed and planets realigned…after all, we each had $15 per diem and were headed to Golden Corral, land of all-you-can-eat, soft-serve ice cream, and most importantly where Bus Drivers eat free.

No comments:

Post a Comment