September 30, 2004

Nothing Makes Up For Wins, But Team Matters Most

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Yesterday afternoon I was browsing as I normally do after class, and I stumbled upon an article about Grant Hill. Hill, who is trying to make a comeback to the NBA after having a season-ending surgery the past three seasons, was quoted as saying, “I don’t really know a lot of the guys [on the Magic]; I know a few of them from the past, but I think on paper we have a chance to be very exciting.”

Boy do I know how he feels.

I tore my ACL after the first play in the annual Sprint Football Alumni Game last season, and just stepped back on the field for the first time on Monday. To be honest, I felt lost out there for a few minutes — but as soon as I took my first handoff, I knew the slow process back into playing shape was taking form.

I also saw, like Hill did with the Magic, that our squad has a chance to do some amazing things this season. Yes, we’re 0-2 right now, but once everyone comes back from injury, and the new guys start learning the system, this team has a chance to be great, and I hope, like Grant does, to contribute to that no matter what my role on the team may be.

Yet the “X’s” and “O’s”, the wins, or the losses weren’t what I missed the most when I was out, it was the bonds with my teammates that I missed the most. Sure, there were guys who I knew, like our quarterback Alec Macauley, wide receiver Mike Gaspar, and defensive end Nick English, all guys who I had been playing with since freshman year. There were also a ton of new guys whom I had no idea who they were, like my man Roland Pinkney. That’s what I missed most — being part of the team, making bonds with people that will last until way after our football days are over.

Some people will say that the only reason they play a sport is to win. Well, here’s a message to all of your general managers and owners who try to turn sports into big business — winning is great, but it isn’t everything.

Don’t get me wrong, we take things seriously, and our coaches want to win, but it’s not all about the game. More than anything our coaches want to see us become good men when we leave Cornell. Most of us never even expected to play college football, but were given a unique opportunity to play in a league where even a small guy can get a chance. Us, and hundreds who came before us, seized the opportunity and the ones that are gone yearn to get it back.

Like I mentioned earlier, I was hurt in our annual alumni game. Every year, we get about a hundred alums to come back and strap it up. Men as old as 65 years old come to play with us. Sounds crazy right? Yes, but they come back not just for the game, but to see old friends, and to reminisce with Coach Cullen about the old days.

The young guys come back too. My brother, who just graduated last year, said that the highlight of his weekend would be tackling me every time I got the ball (good thing I couldn’t play). But I’m sure he went home happy because after the game he got to go out for a beer with his old teammates and talk about how they wish they were still here, playing football. Because after you are too old, and too out of shape to play, all that’s left are the memories and friendships from years gone by.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro