Marolt: Here’s to the champions of the state!
Congratulations, boys! You are the state champions of Colorado high school skiing. Who saw that coming? You may not believe it, but most of us made it all the way through high school and never came anywhere close to accomplishing that in anything. I really wish I had, because it looked like a ton of fun. The boys in my class had a chance to do it only if they made official sports out of spit-wad shooting and stealing friends’ cars and parking them way out in the fields within view of the classrooms where the owners could see them, but that was just a dream.
Turning ski racing into a team sport isn’t easy. It takes the Colorado High School Activities Association about 30 pages to explain the rules and scoring to you and the coaches, so you can pretty much forget describing how it all went down to people less familiar. All anyone needs to know is that the win required excellence in both alpine and nordic racing; out of 12 possible scoring opportunities, 10 different boys garnered points for the team, and six of you incredibly raced in both gravity- and lung-powered events. Everyone seemed to post their best results of the season when it counted most. You were the definition of a great team.
When you think about it, there’s probably no bigger part of American sports folklore than the high school state championship. There are more songs, poems, movies, plays and television programs about them than Olympic medals, college national championships, Vince Lombardi Trophies, World Series rings and Stanley Cups combined and multiplied by 100. Sure, that vast majority of the legends are about football and quarterbacks, but that’s because they were mostly written in places were you can’t see mountains with a telescope. As an Aspenite, I’m just as thrilled with the ski championship. It says more about us.
Maybe the thrill is unique because the state championship is the highest level of achievement in sports that isn’t laced with a dose of expectation about fame and fortune to follow. I don’t care what anybody says about love of the game — once the possibility of profit is introduced, you let a mutt off the leash into the dogfight. Nobody can tell what the origin of your true motivation is.
What you probably won’t understand is that there’s something special about young adults within a breath of feeling their peaks of physical strength while still possessing plenty of childhood enthusiasm for just playing. It’s not about money. It’s not about fame. It is about what all games were originally made up in backyards and on spare time to accomplish and what we all lose sight of as soon as we are old enough to be past our primes and get serious about them — trying to win and having fun in the process instead of the result. It is so beautifully simple that we are joyfully stunned when we see it!
There are the fans, too. In high school, the crowds are made up of friends, relatives and older local people who did 30 years ago what you are doing today and wish they had appreciated it more while it was happening. In short, they are folks who actually do know you and honestly love you for reasons besides the color of the jersey you wear, offseason acquisitions and the size of the trophies in the case. They will be with you through thick and thin, literally forever. Remember the overtime loss your freshman year when you missed the buzzer-beater so badly that you almost broke the buzzer? In that moment, for a completely different reason, their hearts broke more completely than yours, and they loved you more than ever. Talk about loyalty.
Now, I’m not a proponent of living in the past, but I think it’s a heck of a great place to visit now and then. Maybe the best things about winning this state championship are the memories that you will keep for the rest of your lives. These are about your friends and teammates, an incredibly powerful mix. You are going to smile when you recall the bus rides, the screwing around, all the different courses you skied, even interval training until the cookies from your afternoon snack came back out of the milk. I hope when these memories arrive out of the blue, you pick up the phone and call your buddies. I hope they become the rallying points for reunions. Most of all, I hope they make you smile and feel like kids again.
Congratulations, Colorado high school state skiing champions of 2014.
Roger Marolt is still trying to win a state championship in his dreams. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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