The Big Sister
Funny thing about sports venues. Their design comes into vogue, and you end up with a number of gymnasiums that resemble one another. It is unavoidable I suppose.
In East Texas, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, many gyms were constructed that featured high concrete bleachers with the stands beginning about ten feet above the gym floor. The bleachers were surprisingly steep.
It created an environment where it felt like the game was being played in a hole, and all the spectators were looking down into a subterranean court.
In one of those gymnasiums, on a cold evening in October, a special event was underway. Three local varsity volleyball teams had tied for second place and were having a three-match playoff to determine their seeding in the upcoming bi-district tournament.
Sitting near the very top of the bleachers enjoying the second match was a local family: mother, adult daughter and a young boy. The adult daughter was a recent graduate from a local high school and a heck of an athlete. She was in from college and had come to watch her younger sister play volleyball. “So she doesn’t know that her big sister came to watch,” went through my mind.
The communications link in a high school gym is pretty circuitous. Someone gets up to go buy a pickle and sees someone else. The sighting is confirmed by a third party in casual conversation. The message gets passed practically with no intent throughout the stands. It is akin to a Family Circle cartoon.
At some point, the news of the big sister’s presence made it all the way down to the floor, where the younger sister was sitting with her team watching the game.
I saw her coming up after she had already run up about a third of the bleachers. Non-stop, and at pace. It was a notable feat. Without pause, and not skipping a single step, the young sister clattered up the bleachers and directly into the arms of her big sister.
The expression on the faces of the two was beautifully honest and pure. Joy filled them.
(Editor’s note: Monitor sports correspondent John Arbter doesn’t have much to cover these days, so he’s going into the archives and sharing some observations from his beat.)