I’ve never been in any kind of championship anything at any point in my life–until Tuesday. Our undefeated and unscored upon broomball team, the Haz Benz, won our semi-final game on Monday night, and it was time for the championships. Our ragged collection of staff players and their spouses that compete every year in the Bethel College intramural league against teams of younger college students had once again defeated the strapping young lads and was prepared to fight swinging broom and flying shoulder against one last team to claim the coveted prize: T-shirts for the entire team.
Now I’m not much of an athlete. Team sports has never been my thing. This was the first time I’d ever played in a championship game. Our goalie said she wanted to throw up, and I understood how she felt. The whistle blew, the game started, and it was a grueling and punishing game. The other team was tough; they were fast, they were precise, and they were skilled. The first half was evenly matched, something we rarely encountered throughout the year. But halfway through the first half their star shooter put one into the net, and for the first time all season we were losing.
To be honest, I was the worst male player on our team. But unbelievably, my teammates didn’t seem to care. We would sub players, usually having two or three guys sitting out a time. When someone called for a sub no one jumped to be first. They’d ask if someone else wanted to go, or outright tell me to go in next. I’ve never seen a group of guys so committed to winning, but still realizing that playing the game and having fun as a team is more important. Even though every one of those guys had scored more goals than I could ever score in my lifetime, they still wanted me to play.
The second half was a little tougher. On my shift I started to feel the pain. A sprawling dive brought a stiff pain to my left knee, in spite of my pads. I needed to get out of the game, and I started watching for a break in the action when I could safely call for a sub. But a break never came. I shifted from offensive to defense and back again, continually looking to the bench to see if I had time to switch. But then the ball was going up the boards again, and rushed to join the offensive rush.
I came up the center and around the defenders, watching as my teammate finessed the ball along the boards, suddenly handled it around the defender guarding him and shot the ball toward the net. It was coming in fast, bouncing along the ice, but it didn’t have the sailing speed most of my teammates’ shots had. I stood six feet out from the net and watched as the ball came bouncing in. The goalie sprawled to cover the net and I realized the ball was coming to the far side, directly in front of me. Like every cliche, cheesy sports movie, everything turned to slow motion. I stopped the ball with my stick and lifted it into the goal, over the sprawled goalie. It was quick and easy, without any time or room for my usual clumsiness. The game was tied.
What an unbelievable feeling. For the rest of the game I didn’t care what happened. My teammates were amazed and impressed that I had scored, it was the story cheesy sports movies were made of. We ended up losing in overtime, but I was still smiling. I had scored in the championship game, sending it into overtime. I don’t mean to brag about my accomplishment, since I really didn’t do anything. I couldn’t have had a better assist. But you just have to love the feeling. As non-sports minded as I am, I finally understand the adrenaline of competition and the thrill of victory.