Aug 28, 2013

Notes From the Bleachers

As I walked into the lobby of the gymnasium of my high school alma mater last night, I could hear the volleyballs hitting the hardwood floor, the chatter in the stands as the fans waited for the next team's game to start and kids squealing as they chased each other around. Those sounds have never changed; they are forever constant on game night. This time, however, I wasn't wearing a uniform with the number four on my back, no kneepads pushed around my ankles and no ribbon in my hair. I was a spectator, much as I had been when I was able to get there to see my sister play. Last night, while familiar, felt different.

What had changed though? Physical elements had—of course. I paid a five dollar entrance fee for the first time in my life. I also had to get my hand stamped for re-entry, another first in my life. My sister sat on the bench as the Assistant Coach, which was also hard to swallow. The gym had gone through an almost complete remodel a few years back, which included a facelift on the lobby, new hardwood floors, new sound system and probably other areas I no longer have access to as an alumni. The gym floor had been this awful rubber floor when I was in school. I always weighed the pros and cons in my head before ever diving for a ball. If you didn't land just perfect on that floor and roll out of it, you'd end up with a bruise like nothing you'd ever seen before and a rubber burn in the same spot. A carpet burn doesn't even come close to a rubber burn from that floor. Emotional elements had changed too. I no longer knew what to expect from the game. I didn't know if a girl would let the ball hit the ground in front of her or if they'd most likely win a long rally. I found myself nervous sitting in the stands. I could hear the chatter around me and how had I not realized how loud my own Mom could yell? I had never heard her on the court; I had never heard any one person—just muffled noise.

To my surprise, a lot has stayed the same as well. For three of my years on varsity, my English teacher had kept the stats, but the last year she no longer joined us on the bench, but sat up top behind us. Last night I spied her still sitting in the same spot. The "dog pound" or the student section still exists and just as it was back when I played, it had an overwhelming amount of loud, enthusiastic boys. We had always made a deal with the guys and told them we'd come support them at soccer games if they came to watch our games. It seems that trade off still holds true today. The concession stand still serves Dominoes Pizza and the same teacher still lectures students on their behavior from across the gym during time outs.

The most vivid memory I have is from our senior night in 2004. It was the last home game we'd ever play on that court together. We played our town rival, which always made for a great game and a packed gym. The game felt like it lasted forever, but over in the blink of an eye at the same time. We had fallen behind in the last set, but none of us were willing to walk out of the gym with a loss on our night, so we rallied back and took the game. After that, we sat down with a reporter from the local paper for a group interview and the next morning our parents were rushing around to get copies of the paper just to see our names in black ink. What we didn't realize was how much our quotes and stats would dominate the article. I still have that article to this day.

I wish I had stopped to appreciate everything a bit more back then and maybe not have taken it for granted so much, but I suppose I was too busy making memories I'd cherish forever. Don't mind me, just feeling nostalgic tonight.

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