My favorite sporting moment

Woodgrove Soccer 2012 Team Photo
2012 Woodgrove Boys’ Soccer Team

As I sat down to write this blog, it may have taken me close to an hour before I could manage to put a word on the page.

What are my favorite sporting moments? Or, why are sports so special to me? Sure, the opening paragraphs of any story or essay is always the hardest part (at least that’s what I like to think), but the answer to either one of these questions escaped me.

Part of the issue with that can be credited to the fact that I have already done this assignment once before for JN 418, so I didn’t want to self-plagiarize. In my first time around writing this essay, I touched on the “what sports mean to me” side of the topic question(s). I thought about it for a bit, but I ultimately came to the conclusion that I could not go this route again. In my opinion, you can have a million different favorite sporting moments, but you can only have one true reason for having a special connection with sports; anything else would be a lie to yourself.

So then, what is my favorite sporting moment? I did give a little mention to that the first time I did this essay (Landon Donovan scoring against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup), but again, I wanted to try to do something completely different for this essay. (Also, after this past summer’s World Cup, some other U.S. moments might have surpassed Donovan’s goal for me.)

I thought about my local professional teams from the area I’m originally from, Washington, D.C., but most of them have been bottom dwellers for the majority of my life, so nothing really stood out there. I thought about Alabama football, a team I started following during the Mike Shula era when my grandfather, a UA graduate, got me into it. That whole 2008 season could possibly be my “favorite sporting moment” as that was when Alabama’s current era of dominance was born and before fans become way too entitled for my liking, but as someone who covers the team pretty regularly now, I have rescinded a lot of my fandom.

At this point in my narrowing down process, really, the only thing left was me. As a former athlete, a soccer player in particular, I played more than enough over the years to have some really good times (and some bad ones. See: previous essay). I was lucky enough to play on some high-level and competitive clubs, like all-star teams and travel teams, but I don’t think any of that even comes close to my senior year of high school soccer, particularly Senior Night.

A lot of the players on the team, mainly those in my senior class, were not only players I had grown up playing the game with my entire life, but ones that I was particularly close with off the field as well. I think that some of us were certainly good enough to go on to play lower-level college soccer, like Division III, but I like to think we all, in our heads, mutually agreed that this would be our last real season of competitive soccer. To me, it appeared that we all had the idea that we were going to end this together, and, obviously, hope to go out on top.

When our senior year started, we didn’t really know what to expect. Despite knowing each other well from playing over the years and having some good chemistry on the field, this was only our school’s second year of existence, and we were the worst team in the county of 12 schools the year before. We had no history, no senior class at all that first year, so there were zero expectations by anybody other than ourselves of us doing anything remotely good.

Every athlete believes in themselves and their team going into a season, but I truly knew my – our – senior year would be different. I had seen enough soccer in the area over the years to know that we had just as much talent as anybody else in the county, so I knew that wasn’t the issue. I just think that the transition to playing on varsity, where none of us had really played prior to our junior years, was tougher than we imagined, so I figured that we should be past that by Year 2.

Regardless, and I have no shame about bragging about this, I was absolutely right.

In a year, we go from worst to third place. If another ball or two bounces our way, we just as easily could have been first. Whether we were third or first didn’t really make all that much of a difference, the point was that we proved a lot of doubters wrong and we did it with people whose company we enjoyed. I think you’re lying if you say you can’t feel good inside when you fall into a situation like that.

Every win along the way that season was great because who doesn’t like victory? But no victory was better than the one on Senior Night. Even though there was still postseason play to follow, I think this night was always going to be the culmination for me – and I think the rest of the seniors, too – of all the things that we had done over our soccer careers, a lot of that being together on the same teams.

If there was ever any doubt that my senior class wasn’t in this together before, we certainly proved that we were that night. We had our best collective performance ever as a team and defeated one of the other top teams in the county that had embarrassed worse than anybody else the year before, 5-0. We were up 1-0 after two minutes, 2-0 after four minutes and cruised from there. With all the adversity that we went through the year before, I’m fairly certain that win alone might’ve helped make up for all of that. It was that satisfying.

That we didn’t win the state championship that season was disappointing at the time, but not a huge blow in hindsight.

The emotions of losing on the day that we did to end the season, knowing that it was all over and that there would be no more seasons to play in the future, was as sad as I’ve ever been after years of dedication to the sport. It’s probably hard for me to say this as I don’t have the personal experience to draw from, but winning it all that year may have prevented us from truly appreciating the season – and careers – that we had together. Instead of just being able to reminisce in all the glory of winning it all, we can remember that with every up, there was a down, and that we persevered through a lot of that.

The fact that we can still look back at the memories of that season and smile when we’re together even now is the only answer I need to justify that.

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