Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do you believe in miracles?

Everybody loves an underdog.

Ever since the moment David's haymaker landed squarely to the temple of Goliath, the public has thirsted for any kind of contest where the little guy prevails against all odds. Our history is littered with examples: the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, Apollo 13, the 1968 New York Jets, Susan Boyle.

I have one more name to add to this illustrative club, even though my choice is beyond esoteric, and most people have never, nor will never, feel its inclusion is justified. I'm speaking of the 2009-2010 Chief Sealth High School Lady Hawks basketball team, of which my daughter is a member.

Sealth High School, located in West Seattle, Washington, is not a school rich in resources or athletic tradition. Student participation has not always been exceptional, or even moderate, when compared with the other schools in Seattle's Metro League.

A few years ago, in a short-sighted attempt to bring the girls' basketball program to state prominence, the school hired a new head coach, who arrived with a reputation, albeit controversial, for turning teams around. In the short term, he accomplished the goal, winning two straight state titles, and sending three of his players to Division I schools with full-ride scholarships.

His mercenary, win-at-all-costs tactics quickly caught up with him, however, and both championships were stripped from the school. A Seattle Times investigation revealed that the coach, who was also a school counselor, falsified residence documents, promised college scholarships, and committed a plethora of other infractions. He and his entire staff were subsequently fired, many players transferred out of school, and the girls' program was reduced to a burned out husk of its former glory.

Last year, the inaugural attempt at running a "clean" operation, the school wasn't even able to field enough players to finish the season, and the plug was pulled roughly half way through. The principal resolved to return the program to respectability, and hired yet another new coaching staff.

This year's edition of the Lady Hawks is an assembly of gritty overachievers, who play not for the promise of college glory, but for the love of the hoop game. They are fairly skilled, but highly undersized. They play with relentless determination every game, diving for loose balls and throwing their bodies around, but their opponent needs only feed the ball to one of its taller players for an easy hoop under the basket.

The Lady Hawks have yet to win a game, but they inch ever closer to victory.

Last night, the team played their arch rivals from the "nicer" part of West Seattle, West Seattle High School. The two squads battled fiercely, trading baskets, fouls and turnovers the entire contest. Parents of players were sprinkled throughout the spacious, newly remodeled gym, loudly encouraging their daughters. I always try to keep the tone of my cheering positive, never harassing the referees, never celebrating a mistake by the opponent.

One small group of parents on the West Seattle side did not embrace this philosophy. They constantly barked at the refs. They boisterously rejoiced when a Sealth player screwed up. And the poster child of all ugly fans sat just down the row from me. I'm not sure if the guy was someone's dad or not, but he relentlessly strove to distract the players who stood at the free throw line. He whistled. He screamed. He banged his boot on the bleachers so loudly that both teams' benches turned to see who was creating such a ruckus.

After the Chief Sealth player missed her free throw, I glanced over at his huge, satisfied grin...which was short one front tooth. He had been so obnoxious for so long I wanted approach him and ask how he would feel if someone tried to distract him while he tried to cook up a batch of meth. I fantasized about extracting his remaining tooth with my heel while mocking his Mr. Ed-like bleacher stomping.

The game went down to the wire, but West Seattle eventually prevailed. The Lady Hawks almost closed the deal and came up a couple of missed free throws short. I don't think they realize how far they have come, bringing a program back from the dead and playing competitively game in and game out, always the underdog.

I can only harken back to one of history's most famous rhetorical questions. With only seconds left in the 1980 Olympic hockey game between the heavily favored U.S.S.R. and the upstart American team, broadcaster Al Michaels euphorically asked, "Do you believe in miracles?"

Yes, I do. But it won't take a miracle for the Chief Sealth Lady Hawks to win their first game.


  1. Great article Tim! You sound very proud of your daughter and the team she is part of. They are definitely winners!

  2. 一個人的際遇在第一次總是最深刻的,有時候甚至會讓人的心變成永遠的絕緣。.........................

  3. Thanks, Margie, and thanks for reading.