Growing up, I watched a lot of sports with my family. We went to Bay City to watch professional baseball games a few times every year, and I had been to one basketball game and two hockey games as well. I had no athletic talent myself, and my list of athletics experience included one season of tee-ball the summer after kindergarten and one day of football practice in high school before I decided I couldn’t handle it. Mark got all the actual athletic talent in our family; he played baseball and basketball all of his life, and I worked the scoreboard and snack bar.
Surprisingly, considering that I had never been to a professional football game, football was the sport I followed the most closely during my first few years at Jeromeville. Baseball and hockey were simultaneously on strike during my freshman year. The entire baseball playoffs were canceled, as was half of the hockey season, with hockey games having just begun a few weeks earlier instead of in October. I liked basketball, but both of the nearby pro basketball teams were terrible, and going to basketball games wasn’t really something I was used to. But Bay City Captains football games were on TV every Sunday at home, and they had won four championships in my lifetime.
In 1995, the Captains were in the big championship game that would be watched by almost a hundred million people in the USA, and many more worldwide even though American football was not a major sport in other countries. The Captains would be playing the Texas Toros. These two teams had both been very successful in recent years, with each team having won two championships in the last six years. This year’s game was expected to be close, with both teams evenly matched.
I walked into the stairwell to go to dinner the night before the game. The two stairwells in Building C (and presumably the eleven other identical dorms in the South Residential Area) each had chalkboards where the RAs would write announcements, and I saw Gurpreet writing something on the chalkboard. I read the announcement that he had written so far:
Want to be an RA next year?
Meeting Wednesday 2/1 7:00
“Hi, Greg,” he said. “Want to be an RA next year?”
I hadn’t thought about my plans for next year at all. Being a resident advisor could be interesting. I could continue living in a dorm and not have to make my own food, and other students could look to me, so that I could be helpful to someone else in the way that Gurpreet and Amy had been helpful to me. “I might,” I said. “Where’s the meeting?”
“DC downstairs study room. Seven o’clock.”
“Thanks.” I climbed down the stairs as Gurpreet finished writing on the board and walked outside. It was a damp Saturday night, and it was already dark, even though it was only six o’clock. It had been raining earlier in the day, and everything was still wet although the sky seemed dry for now.
In the dining commons, I saw Megan with three girls I didn’t know at a table with empty seats. As I was walking toward them, Megan said, “Hi, Greg! You want to sit with us?”
“Sure,” I replied. I set my dinner tray down at the table next to Megan and realized that I recognized one of the other three girls. She was plain looking and just a little on the heavy side, with straight light brown hair.
“Do any of you know Greg?” Megan asked the other three girls.
“You’re in Math 21C with me, aren’t you?” the one I recognized asked me.
“Yes,” I said, “but I don’t know your name. I’m Greg.”
“I’m Tiffany,” the girl said.
“Nice to meet you.”
“And this is Maria and Brandy,” Megan said, gesturing toward the other two girls. “They’re all on my floor.”
“I was just telling them that I’m going to my friend’s place tonight because we’re going to do something crazy with my hair.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What’s that?”
“I can’t tell you. It’s a surprise. But this,” Megan said gesturing toward her hair, “you won’t see for a while.”
“She’s been teasing us all week by not telling us,” Tiffany said.
A few minutes later, Maria said something about the upcoming meeting for prospective RAs for next year, expressing interest in going. Megan said that she would be good at it. “Hey, Greg?” Megan asked me. “Did you see that announcement about RAs for next year?”
“I did,” I said.
“Are you interested in being one?”
“I might be. I’m going to come to the meeting.”
“Are you going to be an RA again next year?”
“I’m planning on it.”
That night, I kept thinking about this idea of being an RA. It seemed perfect. I wouldn’t have to find a place to live next year. I could stay on campus and have all my meals provided. My building had become my community, and even though other buildings didn’t have the extent of community that Building C and the Interdisciplinary Honors Program had, my new building where I was in charge would become my new community. I would make new friends. Sure, there would be work involved, but the work would involve a position of leadership among my new friends and community, and this seemed like the kind of work I could get behind. Maybe I could even follow in Amy and Gurpreet’s footsteps and be the RA for next year’s IHP, since I had experience with the IHP program already. I knew that former IHP students were often chosen to be the RAs for the IHP building; Amy had been a student in the IHP last year. And, of course, being an RA meant I would probably be seeing Megan around a lot, especially if we ended up in the same one of the three campus residential areas.
The next morning, after I got up but before I showered, I checked my email. I had one message:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Date: Sun, 29 Jan 1995 09:31 -0600 Subject: GO TOROS How was your weekend? Mine was pretty good. I just hung out at my best friend’s house last night after swim practice. I need to go help my dad get set up for our football party. We have about 10 other people coming over to watch the Toros win the championship! Your Captains are going down because the Toros are the better team, and you know it! GO TOROS!!!!!!! -Brittany
Swimgirl17 was Brittany, whom I had met online shortly before I left for Jeromeville. She was a high school senior who lived in Texas, and that made her the enemy today because she was a Toros fan. Most people in this part of the state who followed football were Captains fans, since they were the closest team geographically, and some of the Toros fans I knew around here could be real jerks about this sometimes. I liked Brittany, she was nice, but I didn’t like the fact that she was a Toros fan. Of course, she had a reason to be a Toros fan since she actually lived in Texas. I decided to wait until the game was over before replying to that email.
Around the time the game was supposed to start, I wandered down to the common room, where there was a television with a rabbit-ear antenna. Nowadays, with cable and Netflix and all the other options out there, many people don’t seem to understand how antennas work, or that they can still be used to get local television channels. The way they work is that TV stations broadcast signals over radio waves that a TV can pick up and turn into moving pictures, much like how radio stations do the same thing and a radio turns them into sound. The TV in the common room could get all of the major networks on stations out of Capital City, although some of them came in a little fuzzy. For the game today, the picture was good enough to watch.
Mike Adams, Ian, Gina, Karen and Pat, Taylor, David, Pete, Mike Potts, Keith, and a guy from the third floor whom I didn’t know well named Yu Cheng were all watching the game. I took a seat on a couch next to Taylor. “I see you’re on the right side,” he said, noticing that I was wearing the one Captains shirt I had. “Yu and Ian are the only Toros fans.”
“It’s not my fault!” Yu said. “I lived in Texas until I was 8!”
“And my family has always been Toros fans,” Ian explained, much more quietly.
“Chips?” Taylor asked, passing me a bag of tortilla chips. “There’s guacamole and dip over there.”
I took a few chips, without dipping them in anything, and passed the bag to the next person, which was Pat in a chair to the left. Television talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford was singing the national anthem, which I tuned out, not out of disrespect for my country but out of dislike for Kathie Lee.
After that, the game began with the Captains kicking off to the Toros. The Toros scored on the first drive, after which Ian applauded and Yu screamed, “YEAH!” The Toros scored again midway through the first quarter.
“Damn,” I said
“It’s still early,” Taylor replied. “The Captains are playing pretty well. They just need to finish their drives. They could easily get back in this game. Of course, throwing that interception didn’t help either.”
“I know. It’s just that this girl I met online lives in Texas, and she was taunting me about the game in an email.”
“Who cares? It’s just a game. And if this girl really cares about you, that won’t matter.”
“I guess you’re right.”
The scoring slowed down in the second quarter, with both teams held to one field goal each. The Captains were down 17-3 at halftime. “I’m not enjoying this game,” I said.
“Remember the game against Philadelphia back in September or October or whenever that was?” Taylor asked. “The Caps lost that one so badly, but that lit a fire under them, and they haven’t lost a game since. The same thing could happen here.”
“Yeah, but that was a whole game they lost. We only have halftime to get that momentum back.”
A few people had left the common room during halftime, but everyone else had trickled back in by the middle of the third quarter. They got there in time to see a Captains defensive back intercept a pass and run all the way back for a touchdown. The Captains intercepted another pass late in the third quarter, leading to a field goal on that drive. Going into the fourth quarter, the Captains were still down, but the deficit had been cut to 17-13.
“See?” Mike Adams said. “Taylor was right! The Caps got the momentum back after halftime. This game could still go either way.”
“I know,” I replied. “But I’m nervous. This is for the championship.”
“I told you,” Taylor said. “It’s just a game.”
The Toros scored a field goal early in the fourth quarter, but their quarterback had lost the sharpness that he had played with before halftime. He threw another interception, and the Captains tied the score 20-20 with a touchdown a few minutes later.
“YES!” I shouted, along with similar reactions from the other Captains fans. I high-fived Taylor and Mike Adams and Gina. “WOOO!” I shouted. I nervously watched the Captains score again with just under two minutes left, leading to another round of cheering and high-fiving. Then, even more nervously, I watched the Captains’ defense trying to close out the game in the final minutes, which they did. I jumped up and shouted as the clock ticked down; the Captains had won, 27-20.
When I got back to my room, still grinning excitedly, I checked my email. At first I wasn’t planning on gloating in response to Brittany’s email. I wouldn’t want her to have acted like that had the proverbial shoe been on the other foot. I was going to reply and say something about the game, for sure, something to the extent that it was a good game, and that the Toros played well and made the game close and exciting. But when my new messages came up, I again had only one, and it was from Brittany. The date and time on the message showed that she had written it during halftime.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Date: Sun, 29 Jan 1995 18:57 -0600 Subject: Re: GO TOROS 17-3 so far… the Toros are playing great! I told you the Toros were the better team! Have fun watching us win the championship!
She’s totally asking for this, I thought. I’m not being mean. I clicked Reply and typed one sentence:
So how’d that work out for you?
I went to dinner, still feeling excited about the Captains’ big win. Danielle from down the hall was there, sitting by herself, so I sat with her.
“Were you watching the game today?” she said. “I saw there was a big group down in the common room.”
“I was!” I said. “The Caps won!”
“I heard. I didn’t watch it. We never really followed football when I was growing up.”
“I’ve been a Captains fan as long as I can remember, but I didn’t follow football as closely as baseball growing up. I had friends encouraging me to play football when I was in high school. I quit after the first full day of practice, I was in way over my head, but that experience of learning more about the game really has helped me enjoy watching football more. I understand the game better than I did before.”
I caught something out of the corner of my eye as Danielle said this. Someone with bright green hair, cut short like boys’ hair even though the person had boobs and a feminine figure, walked through the door and swiped her ID card. I turned to look more closely at this person with bright green hair, and realized with a shock that it was Megan. She made eye contact with me, and I waved, my mouth open in surprise. She walked over to me.
“So, what do you think?” she asked me, grinning.
“It stands out,” I said. “It’s unique. I like it.”
“Thanks! I was going for unique and standing out, so I guess it worked. I told some other RAs that I was going to sit with them, so I should go find them, but I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Yeah. See you later.”
“Who was that?” Danielle asked as Megan was walking away.
“Megan. She’s an RA in Building K. She said last night that she was going to do something different with her hair.”
“It certainly is different. How do you know her?”
“I’ve just seen her around here a lot. I think Amy introduced us earlier in the year.”
“Oh… so the funniest thing happened today. I know this girl online who lives in Texas, and she sent an email teasing me about the game, saying that Texas was going to win. After the game, I had another message from her that she sent at halftime. She was teasing me because Texas was winning, acting like they had already won… but that didn’t work out for her so well!”
“That’s great,” Danielle said. “You don’t ever want to count on something happening until you know it’s going to happen. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, they say.”
“Or don’t count your Toros before they’re… calved. Is that a word, calved?”
“I’m not sure.”
After I finished eating, I walked back to Building C and Room 221, thinking about today. Brittany apparently learned a valuable lesson about celebrating prematurely and counting on something uncertain. This was a lesson that I should also keep in mind. Sometimes life throws unexpected curveballs. Some of these are minor and insignificant in the long run, like when a team that is winning falls behind, or when a friend unexpectedly dyes her hair green. But sometimes these surprises can have major ramifications for the future.
A few weeks after this football game, I had an unexpected occurrence in my life that changed my plans for the future: I was not chosen to be an RA. I completely bombed the interview. The current RAs and housing department staff member who interviewed me asked a lot of questions about how I would handle certain situations, and my answers seemed shaky and uncertain. I had a very sheltered childhood, and many of the situations they asked about, such as dealing with students with substance abuse problems or gay and lesbian students being excluded by others, were not things that I had ever come across in my life. That which I had assumed my life would revolve around next year had not happened, just as Brittany’s assumption that the Toros would go on to win did not happen. I was going to need to make new plans, eventually.