Mistakes and volleyball
Last December, I wrote an article in the Echo’s Joke Issue about Colby’s volleyball team. The idea of the article was to imitate a piece from The Onion in which I would joke about the team’s lackluster season. It was a mistake. It wasn’t the first or last mistake I’ve made.
Mistakes come in all forms. Sometimes mistakes are spontaneous. Sometimes it takes a perfect storm to make a mistake. The latter was the case in my article. Although the article was misguided to begin with, it became worse as the night progressed. That night, I had to pull one article for, frankly, being hilariously not funny. Then, another article never found an author. What was originally 300 words became close to 600 as I stretched further and further for crueler and crueler content. This is not a defense; it’s merely a statement of what happened and how mistakes can grow out of almost nothing to define a person for a time.
With the NBA season in a lockout, meaningful football being played just one or two days per week, and hockey unable to find a strong television audience, morning episodes of SportsCenter are more focused on mistakes than ever. The Boston Red Sox drank beer in the clubhouse. Mistake. The NBA players turned down a 51 percent revenue deal. Mistake. You surely remember when Tiger Woods’ infidelities in 2009 dominated headlines from ESPN to CNN. These are mistakes for which we crucify the perpetrators. Ask yourself if that is fair.
Of course it’s not. You and I have no idea what was going on in Tiger’s marriage. Nobody stops and thinks, “Wait, maybe Tiger really has a problem.” Does that make cheating OK? Obviously not. But it also should make people stop and think before they launch personal attacks on someone whom they don’t know at all.
In the article, I joked about the players’ ability to “annoy” those present with their screaming and yelling after every point. I knew that this is part of volleyball culture, but I figured it’d make for a good joke. It obviously didn’t, and I was wrong anyway.
As a member of the tennis team, I was paired with volleyball and men’s basketball as brother-sister teams and was able to make it to the gym for a few volleyball games. No team on campus encourages its teammates quite like the volleyball team: every point, win or lose. This is especially evident in senior co-captain Caitlin Burchill, who physically and emotionally dominates the gym. She works harder than any Colby athlete I’ve ever seen, never takes a point off and takes the blame for on-court mistakes she didn’t make. That is not a player who should be made fun of.
ESPN’s Bill Simmons, writing about Tiger Woods in April this year, said, “I want my son to know that people screw up, that nobody is perfect, that you can learn from your foibles. I want my son to watch The Natural someday, hear Roy Hobbs say, “Some mistakes you never stop paying for,” and know that it’s not just words in a movie. I want my son to know that you haven’t lived until you’ve fought back, that you haven’t won until you’ve lost, that you can’t understand what it’s like to relish something until you’ve suffered, too.”
Some mistakes you never stop paying for. This one, I think, I will. Others, I know I won’t.
This fall, Colby’s volleyball team improved its record to 3-7 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) and 11-15 overall. Three wins in the toughest conference in all of Division III places a team in a class that few in the nation can reach. The Mules fell to top-seeded Bowdoin College this past weekend in the NESCAC playoffs, ending their season.
Congratulations to the volleyball team—as well as all of the other fall sports teams—on a successful fall season. And for my fellow seniors: you’ve won, you’ve lost, you’ve suffered. Now relish it.