Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hark Upon the Gale.

This past Saturday brought with it a round of chilly rain and championship football. Being the college football (ahem) fan that I am, I had planned all week to watch as much of every game as possible. Hoping for close, hard-fought match-ups, I was not disappointed, as several games ended in the last minute with score differentials of only 1 point! The only lopsided victory of the day went to the long-overdue Crimson Tide of Alabama. And the crazy finish of a game-winning field goal with 0:01 on the clock puts the Texas Longhorns in the big game. But in spite of all the excitement on the flat screen, I was really looking forward to a game taking place halfway across the country with far less press coverage but much more meaning to me.

I was lucky enough to attend the College of William & Mary for my undergraduate degree, a wonderful four years I would happily live all over again. During my time at the College, I worked with the Division of Sports Medicine, and during my junior year, I was assigned to the football team. Widely known to be the toughest assignment in all of Sports Med, I took it on following an entire summer of covering sports camps. And from a pre-season filled with two-a-days until the last play from scrimmage on Senior Day, I totally loved it.

I was able to travel with the team to Raleigh, Delaware, and Boston, skipping out on the Providence trip only for the CAA Women's Soccer tournament. I watched one of the most gruesome leg injuries I've ever seen, then hauled that poor Offensive Lineman to the hospital in the back of a ghetto equipment van. Through surgery and rehab and his comeback during our senior year, it's true what they say - you sometimes make friendships in the most unlikely ways. And then the infamous night I was in charge of medical coverage for the Defense...when the star Defensive Lineman went down with a season-ending knee injury. Not only did we bus back to Williamsburg late that night, having suffered a heart-breaking defeat in double-overtime...but I also woke up ridiculously early the following morning to scrub in on that player's surgery. I still remember thinking that the ACL and PCL looked like French fries (they kinda do, if you really think about it). It was a priceless experience - and certainly a sign of things to come.

In addition to feeling like I had 90 new brothers, I also had the pleasure of becoming friends with Tribe Head Coach Jimmye Laycock. I still believe he took on a paternal role with me because his own daughter had left home to start her first year at UVa during that season. And besides that, our whole region was pummeled by Hurricane Floyd that same year. When my hometown was flooded and no contact could be made with my family for two days, Coach Laycock took that to heart as much as anyone, allowing me time off to check on things at home. You don't forget things like that. And you always find it that much easier to cheer for your home team.

Suffice it to say, I love William & Mary. And I love Tribe football. So following one of its most successful seasons to date, the team has made the playoffs this year. Their opponent in the First Round seemed to be one the Tribe should handle easily, especially with home-field advantage at Zable Stadium. Yes, Zable is also the name of my chocolate lab - not a coincidence. I was thrilled to watch online as the Tribe throttled Weber State, 38-0, moving on to Round Two. For me, I felt they should win their first game, but anything beyond that would simply be icing on the cake of a great season. When it was determined that the team would travel to Carbondale, Illinois, to face the #3 Salukis this past weekend, I hoped they would at least play with some heart and not be blown out. Though Southern Illinois came out looking very strong, their opening field goal proved to be their only score of the day, as the Tribe scored 24 unanswered points on the way to Coach Laycock's 200th career victory! After the game, the senior captains presented the game ball to their "ol' coach." And in true Laycock fashion, he accepted it graciously, then told them they have more work to do. He told the media this past week of finally remembering the honorary game ball when he heard it rolling around in the trunk of his car while driving to practice! It was only then that he decided to place it in his office. Humble and driven. Just how I remember it.

So the boys play on. This Friday night, they revisit #2 Villanova in Philadelphia, where they suffered their worst defeat during the regular season, 28-17. Certainly, the odds are against them. But then again, that's the way it's been for much of the season. Not so many people expected them to start off the year with a resounding victory against the 'Hoos in Charlottesville. The rivalry game against former champs JMU was a victory for the Tribe that was never really close. And a heartbreaking field goal with 2 seconds left is the crushing way they lost to the Richmond Spiders, the defending national champions. So these guys are accustomed to putting up a fight. I hope they play hard and show tons of heart, win or lose. It's great exposure for my tiny little school, now thrust into the spotlight with national TV HD! I don't think I've ever seen the Tribe on TV in HD! And it makes me really happy. I have a lot of Tribe Pride. It's okay - you can have some, too! There's plenty to go around.

Go Tribe. Hark Upon the Gale.

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