March 12, 2008

Borofsky Discovers the True Meaning of Athletic Competition

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A little while ago Chris Berman of ESPN announced that the “Miracle on Ice” of Mike Eruzione’s game-winning, Russian-crushing goal in 1980 was voted the greatest highlight of all time. And I am not about to argue with that for two reasons: one, it’s a really bad idea to argue with hockey fans and two, I love that movie. Still, all this highlight hoopla got me thinking about what makes a great sports moment ESPN top-10 worthy. Then, two weekends ago, I’m pretty sure I was a part of one.
Earlier this month, the Cornell Women’s Club ice hockey team did not go out drinking on the Friday night before a game (for once) because the next morning 10, yep count it, 10 players drove to Syracuse at 6:30 a.m. for the North East Women’s Collegiate Hockey Association (NEWCHA) Spring Tournament. Despite a nearly flawless season, with the exception of a non-league loss to an extremely talented, ahem, high school team and a single league loss to Potsdam, all 10 ladies were a tad on edge.
Our stud of a goalie, senior Chelsea Acosta was not going to be able to play in our second game against Potsdam due to her role in the Vagina Monologues, showing that night. While the girls in my car focused on figuring out how to play one of the best NEWCHA teams without our best (and only) goalie, another car filled with four players (out of 10) had driven back to Ithaca to pick up a pair of forgotten contacts. While six of us donned our freezing cold pads prior to our 9:15 a.m. game, the other four were still on Rt. 13.
Goalie issues aside, we faced off against Syracuse’s club team with only five skaters and played that way for the first five regulation minutes of a 12-minute period. While our four teammates did finally arrive, contacts in tow, we were unable to defeat a Syracuse team that had smelled fear, gone in for the kill, and forgotten to bring our free tournament T-shirts.
Based on our record we had sort of expected to come into the tournament and run the show, but all hope was not lost. The tournament was scored on a five-point system, meaning you received a point for every period that you won and two points if you won the game. If we could find a way to beat Potsdam later that afternoon, we still might have a shot to play in the championship game.
After lunch and a shopping spree (talk about being mentally prepared) at the Carousel Mall, we had recovered from the morning chaos but we still didn’t have a solution to the minor, well actually, major goalie dilemma. Then, sophomore forward Rachel Krasnow offered to sacrifice her safety, dignity and sense of smell by agreeing to mind the net in our rapidly-approaching contest. Not only had Krasnow never played in goal before, but she would have to wear Chelsea’s, um, extremely aromatic pads. Let’s just say that smell might be part of Chelsea’s secret to success.
After a warm-up that consisted entirely of rapid-fire on Krasnow, it was clear that the only way we had a chance in this game was to prevent those brawny Potsdam broads from taking all but the softest, saucer shots on our inexperienced teammate. Ever the classy and graceful role model, Potsdam’s coach began shouting, “Shoot from the red line!” almost as soon as the puck dropped. Honestly, if you’re going to employ a cheap strategy to take advantage of another team’s bad luck, at least have the decency to pre­tend you’re not a scheming jerk, not that I’m bitter.
To our disbelief (and I think Potsdam’s too), we jumped out to a 2-0 lead and held it all the way through the second period. Never before had our team played such unselfish, unrelenting defense while still creating enough offensive opportunity to get ourselves a two-goal head start. We could have easily played the “Swedish” trap the entire game, contenting ourselves with the prospect of tying the game at 0-0 and earning a point and half. Instead, we gambled against one of the strongest teams we’d faced the entire season and took it to them. That’s not to say they didn’t get any shots on net, but amazingly Krasnow was able to save, deflect, or get lucky on an uncanny number of zingers that came her way.
Despite our absolute best effort, Potsdam did end up staging a come-from-behind attack and won the game in the waning minutes of the third period by a score of 3-2. So some of you might be wondering why this game is worthy of highlight status. We didn’t beat the “Russians” (if you will), we didn’t make it to the championship tournament and we certainly didn’t win any gold medals for our country, so what’s the big deal?
Playing your heart out and having a blast even when you know that you’re screwed isn’t just the plot line of every great sports movie ever created, it’s the backdrop behind every truly great sports moment, well pretty much, ever. Sure, the women’s club hockey team didn’t make any miracles on ice by Chris Berman’s standards, but in the four-year history of the team we definitely did something no other team had done before. Even if we didn’t win the game or even play in the championship, we truly grasped the pure joy of athletic competition and so that game (and this year’s team) ranks No. 1 on my top-10 sports highlights.