IM insider gives thanks, trudges through snow

By Mike Czaplicki

East Lansing, MI

This past weekend, I startled my friends and family with my speech about what I was thankful for this holiday. More than a good roof over my head, the protective gothic battlements encircling me, Maroon football picks, Harold’s fries, my little black velvet dress, or the wad of cash and fake passport stuffed under my mattress, I was thankful for the wondrous athletic bounty that is the University of Chicago IM sports program.

Do not misunderstand me: of course I am thankful for health, happiness, tiger-ducks, my grim circle of graduate school colleagues, puppies, Whet Moser, Oxes [but not Baltimore], rubber pants, Minnesota, and to live in a nation where a president who looks like a monkey can hop down from his tire swing, push a button to destroy a foreign oil corporation’s headquarters, and gleefully receive a banana pellet from Dick Cheney. I just feel that in these unsettled times, when people nervously greet each other with only the wannest of smiles before ducking back into the comforting cover of the stacks, the mushy folds of their doughy flesh, their books, their pashminas–anything to avoid exposing even the smallest bit of emotional availability or vulnerability, we should feel thankful to have an IM program that satiates our desire for sensuous experience by serving up a delightfully perverse buffet of noble sportsmanship, sociability, unabashed glee, thuggery, rage, and sorrow.

I understand this might seem contradictory, given my railing against an unfortunate house in Palevsky (perhaps this could be their house tradition?), whining, or the pernicious influence of boosters, but this is all part of the experience. If you have never completely lost all composure and ben reduced to the intellectual level of a blubbering four-year old over whether or not a wide receiver pushed off to make a measly two-yard catch, skipped a discussion session to work on your hitting; yelled the most horrible and noxious epithets at the wheelchair-bound blind kid in your house for missing his blocking assignment and getting burned on that deep crossing route, rooted for your worst enemy because they were playing the B-School, been reduced to awe in the face of the athletic exploits of the ex-DI sleeper so many teams trot out each year, gotten caught up in the giddiness of 25 house members showing up on a school night to cheer for their team, if you have never done any of these things then you have missed out on one of life’s great joys and will never get IMs.

Given the intensity with which the initiated indulge the sports, I apologize in advance for the suspenseful ending I am going to leave you with. Now banish the anxiety I surely have caused from your mind and celebrate the amazing spectacle offered by last week’s volleyball finals.

Last Monday, the guys and gals of Geophysics (also known as Volleydogs and Geounion Dogs) came to town to face off against Pike and the SSA Women. Whether due to their mastery of the dark and secret forces of nature you were never told about in your Physics for Poets class (which also explains why those 130s kids always kick your ass at Magic) or their superior talent, the Volleydogs knocked off an absent Pike squad in what informed observers called the most exceptionally contested forfeit ever while the Geounion Dogs dispatched the SSA Women with ease.

The Volleydogs, after engaging in some bizarre druidic dance that would have warmed Michael Flatley’s heart to celebrate their title of university champions, settled back to watch their colleagues try to win a matching crown at the expense of Woodward.

After a bit of practice, the Geounion Dogs looked surprisingly confident as they took the court against the well-rested Woodies. Confidence quickly went out the window, however, as Woodward jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, taking the first game 15-4. Despite the final score, the game could have been closer but the Dogs were unable to capitalize on the numerous sideouts they won.

The second game was never in question as Woodward administered one of the worst beatings I have ever been privileged to witness at Henry Crown. Cristina “The Peruvian Rocket” Correa proved worthy of her nickname by taking Woodward out to a 4-0 start. After a quick exchange of sideouts, Crystalynn Woodard added to the lead by reeling off seven more points, courtesy of a slow, deep, tailing serve that baffled the G-Dogs.

Even when their opponents were able to handle the serve, Woodward had other weapons at their disposal. Mary Gacek (who was unforgivably misnamed in the last Insider) had an excellent hit off of a soft block, Judy “Treetop” Briant had several critical blocks, and the team played aggressive defense. Only a miss hit by Katie Dean ended the bleeding for G-Dogs and gave them a chance to avoid a rare bageling.

Woodward would not be denied, however, and took the serve right back. Treetop stepped up to the line to serve, and given the way the game had gone, the sideline-capacity crowd buzzed in anticipation of a game-ending service run. Briant gained a quick point, but her whiff of her next serve brought a collective gasp from the crowd, which was composed of house members, resident heads, and parents of resident heads.

Woodward’s defense stepped up again to preserve the shutout and placed the ball in Dean’s capable hands. Dean more than made up for her earlier mistake by smacking an ace, and after Woodward won another long rally to take the game to 14-0, she prepared to serve for match point. Perfect game, perfect season, perfect ending. Dean aced the G-Dogs for the championship.

After the match, the G-Dogs were gracious in defeat and suggested their loss may have been due to the lack of suitable competition in the graduate divisions. Rose Kontak pointed out suggestive evidence of this: “There are only two teams in the league, so we didn’t get much practice.”

For their part, Woodward attributed their success to teamwork and the support of their house. Gacek claimed P. Rock “is the one who get us motivated–she yells, spits, and screams.” The team also sent out special thanks to “our coach, biggest source of motivation, and number one fan.”

In the end, house member Robert Hubbard, who is not the mystery super-fan, said it best. In the middle of game two, I overheard Hubbard saying “I love our volleyball team. It makes Woodward so much better.” Stop the presses: like Linus dropping the true meaning of Christmas, mwaa mwaa mwaa waa–sorry, got up in the Charlie Brown lingo–Hubbard expressed the spirit of IMs beautifully.

Now for the suspense. Since this is the last issue of the quarter for the Maroon, so it is the last missive from the Insider and the outcome of the current dramatic state of affairs in the football leagues will be unknown. Yesterday’s snow caused the cancellation of grad league championship between Atropine and GSB, the undergrad semifinals (Bishop/Henderson and Flint/Dodd-Mead), and the undergrad women’s championship between Broadview and Alper. All I can offer you is my expertise. Broadview will give Alper the boot and then knock off Apathy to take the women’s crown. Henderson, who looked impressive last week, will baffle Bishop with their subtle formations setting up a huge game against Dodd-Mead for the undergrad residence title. Henderson will win, take out Pike for the undergrad title, but fall to Atropine in the university bowl.

So the season will end; next quarter will bring new sports, new champions, and a new Insider. It’s been fun. Enjoy the break.