Friday, March 12, 2010

The emotional complexity of an intramural championship

So my team has won the intramural championship. Overall, it's great. We worked really hard, came together as a team, beat some excellent opponents, and truly had a blast during the season. The playoffs were challenging and exhilarating. As the number two seed, we cruised through the first couple of rounds, then faced an extremely tough team in the semifinal with one extraordinarily skilled playera former D1 shooting guard. Luckily, they had just played an exhausting quarterfinal, while we won ours with ease. (The semifinal was the second of two games on the same night.) Because they were tired and we were not, we pulled away in the second half and won by 20.

We had expected to play the number one seed in the final, but incredibly, they lost their semifinal game because they could only field five guys and basically ran out of gas. So we faced the twelve seed, the defending intramural champion and a team that was much better than their seeding would suggest. (Also, a team with a ridiculous name: "O U NO FO SHO.") The game was close throughout
both teams playing with real passionbut our best players went into high gear at the end and iced it. Afterwards, we got our championship t-shirts and had our picture taken for the website and a banner that will hang in the gym's fieldhouse. I should have been elated, and part of me was, but it was more complicated than that.

I had sat on the bench during the most crucial stretches of the final game so that our best five could play more minutes. This was the right thing to do, but after the game, I wondered if I should have felt bad about not contributing more. I definitely thought that I had done my part during the season, but at the same time, I think that the team could have won without me. Even though I was technically the captain (because I had filled out the registration form), I was also a replaceable part.

I've played on league teams where I was the best player, which I did not really like, but I've never played on a team where I was one of the worst. Intellectually, I was able to accept my reduced role, but when the buzzer sounded in the championship game, my animal ego stung more than I thought it would. As our team picture was being taken, I had a couple of dispiriting thoughts. First, how much longer can I play at this level? This season was tough on me, as I was constantly matching up with quicker, stronger players. Second, will I continue to be ok with being a role player? Will my role get smaller and smaller? How small will it have to get before I am not ok with it?

I have some time to think about these things, but next year, when I look up at our championship banner, I wonder if I will feel pride, guilt, or both.