Being part of a team is many things – there’s the camaraderie, the support, that sense of being part of something bigger than you. For these games, I’m really on two teams – the +45 Masters soccer team that will be running around the field, and the larger Team USA that will walk together in the opening ceremonies.
There is something special about putting on a uniform with those three letters on it. It represents what we hope are the ideals and values of our nation, a showcase for others of what being an American is all about.
When the boxes arrived, it was better than just about any Hanukkah present I’ve gotten. Seeing all that red, white, and blue gear, and knowing that I had earned it, and wasn’t just wearing it as a fan still makes me a little bit giddy.
When I was in high school, I was always thisclose to making the varsity squad, each year, I was one of the last guys cut, one of the top performers on the JV team, but never quite good enough for the A-team. Every fall, it hurt as I watched my friends move up the ladder without me, but I just wasn’t ready.
So it was with great surprise when one November day as I was heading towards school from the parking lot, I saw Coach Bill Browning coming towards me. I don’t know if he knew where I normally parked, or how long he’d been waiting, but he had a big smile on his face as he came up and handed me one of the coveted varsity uniforms, and told me I’d be playing with the squad through the playoffs.
While I knew this was more for being a de facto varsity team manager for three years – putting up nets, shagging balls, carrying gear – it was recognition that I had earned a spot on the team through all the work I’d done for the team.
If this was one of my beloved sports movies, I’d have gotten on the field at the end of the game, and scored a wondergoal, like Ollie hitting his free throws in “Hoosiers.”
But the point wasn’t to have a moment of glory, it was to be part of that team, and everything that implies, if only for a short time. This Maccabi squad has been coming together for just over a year, and over these next few days, that sense of team will surely make this an experience I’ll never forget.
I’m so proud to be a part of this team, this organization, and this country and I can’t wait to show the world what we’re all about.