Greatest Field Hockey Team Ever Assembled.
I haven’t told a story in a while, because I don’t have that many stories. Kind of a boring individual. I’m not sure what made me think of this story, maybe because we are right around its 2-year anniversary or perhaps just because it has a great moral. Wait until you get to the moral. It’ll be amazing. This is a great tale of sport, and more than that a story of jubilation. Pure unadulterated happiness. Not this choreographed nonsense you see at the World Cup. This is the story of one of the greatest field hockey moments ever recorded. For the time being, I’ll have to ask you to trust me, and read on.
If I can be allowed a moment to set the scene: I found myself along with a group of my closest friends participating in a charity field hockey tournament. I’ll give you a moment to re-read that sentence, there are no typos. I’m all for a good cause, and I’m also all for the chance to win any type of game. When you reach adulthood, and the glory of beer pong and D-III golf (Big Dub knows what I’m talking about) has passed, you miss the opportunity to win games. Real games, not freecell on the computer. Some people join softball leagues, or something of that nature, but I’ve never been much of a joiner. Plus, dominating softball isn’t something I really need to accomplish. This field hockey, though, now there’s an interesting proposition.
I don’t know how I would describe my particular set of athletic skills. My best sport probably is beer pong. Or perhaps carnival games, think of the unique talents it takes to excel on the midway, and that’s me. Kraft used to say that JCK and I were perfectly suited for intramurals. Passable at everything, great at nothing. It’s not as easy as it sounds. No one knows what I am capable of more than me, so I manage the places I put myself in. You won’t see me on a soccer field, you won’t catch me doing anything on a mountain. Field hockey was a tough area, though. My general feeling was I could rip a field hockey ball, but other than that, it would probably be ugly. If it hadn’t been for charity, and if I hadn’t been told there would be other “for fun only” teams at the event, I probably would have been out. But, as it turned out, there I was.
Now, when I arrived in Haddonfield, NJ (Dirty Jerz…what, what), I encountered quite a scene. I’ve never seen such a gathering of field hockey, and immediately I was feeling a little nervous. It wasn’t easy to tell the serious players from the non-serious ones. A lot of people looked official. Unis, more aggressive looking sock/shin guard combos, proper equipment…that kind of thing. Of course, I didn’t have a stick, so everyone was looking like a pro. The minutes before the first game were passed with a lot of nervous joke making, hopes that no one blew out a hammy, and the thought that it would be nice to score one goal. Immediately following the introductions we found out that we’d be playing the first game in the main gym, or should I say, “Arena.” And with that, it was on.
So, who were we playing you might ask? Well, occupying the “rec” division was a broad array of squads. We happened to get paired up against a collection of high school girls…who actually played field hockey. I know what you are thinking, and yes, we were terrified. I can think of some things more emasculating than losing a sporting event to 15-year-old girls, but on that particular day, it would have been the lowest of the low. The scouting report was that we had no skill, but seeing as aside from our one woman we were a team of old guys, I think our opponents were a little creeped out, and rightfully so.
A quick note on field hockey: it’s exhausting. If we were going to get a jump on these girls, we probably needed to do it quickly, but we were having trouble finishing. It was like a Flyers game, we had a lot of muckers and grinders, but no one was putting the old biscuit in the basket. Sometime after the midway point, I think a decision was made to force the issue. We had Rita Jones playing an immaculate goal, and a 0-0, El Cupo Worldo style draw was not going to be acceptable. Perhaps I should mention at this time that we were playing in front of a reasonably large crowd. All the teams that were waiting to play just stayed in the bleachers. I kind of forgot about this, but at the same time, you could hear an occasional snicker.
Well, those laughs were about to be silenced. Feeling perhaps a second wind, perhaps a final tinge of pride we forged into the offensive zone led by Hank Moody who was valiantly playing left-handed with a right-handed stick. He charged up the left side, and sent a cross blindly into the middle of the gym. Think foul-line extended. The blind cross incidentally was the offense we ran the entire afternoon. But, on this occasion, I happened to be all alone. The ball came drifting toward me in slow motion, a perfect saucer pass. I said to myself, you know what Hoss, just let it go. I unleashed a laser beam, it sizzled through the air and into the back of the net at which point complete pandemonium broke out in the gym. Or I should say, everyone got to witness the greatest moment of my adult athletic life. I took off in a sprint toward our goal. Legend has it that it was the fastest I’ve ever run. I got to our foul line, and unleashed a vicious triple fist-pump, and we celebrated as a team.
Now, it’s not important that we went on to win the game (3-0, what?), and that I MAY have scored a few more beauties, nothing matched that first goal. Not even when Rand almost got into a fight with an actual real live girl in the second game. If I could have video of one moment in my life, I might pick this goal. It was that amazing and hilarious. Of course I did kind of forget that a lot of people were watching. After the game I was confronted by a group of girls that said, “Hey its the Field Hockey All-Star,” then they burst into laughter. It was a very proud moment for me. They declined autographs.
What wasn’t so great was the physical toll that the tournament took on my body (thank god we withdrew after 2 games). Bending over a field hockey stick designed for someone 5′ 4″ for an hour wasn’t the best thing for me. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find a comfortable position (unsuccessful), and spent the next week or so walking with a noticeable limp. Anything for charity right? But, when balancing the glory of adult athletics with the possible after effects it is important to remember one thing: Gym class heroes have expiration dates. And, there it is.