At the 2012 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, sitting volleyball is big. The way college football or basketball often outshine other sports at Division I schools, people get up for sitting volleyball at the third edition of the Games.
With the undefeated Marines facing off against the Army in the gold medal match on Friday night, the stakes were even higher and the excitement raised even more. The two teams had faced each other in both previous sitting volleyball gold medal matches and had gone at each other all week, often placing one two in the archery, shooting, cycling and track and field events. It was Duke-North Carolina, but deeper.
Fans waved flags. The Marine camera crew emerged from the media room with painted faces and noisemakers. A group of Army fans buzzed vuvuzelas.
The Army jumped out to an early lead, with every point heralding an eruption from the fans, coaches and players. The Marines stormed back and won the second game, forcing a decisive, and sure to be electric third game. Then, somewhere in there, or maybe it was there the whole time and was just drowned out by the fervor of a genuinely good sporting event, the meaning and feelings from this game and it’s players exploded.
The game was a game. With sets and blocks and points and fouls. But the people playing that game represented so much more. Every one of them had come from a dark, painful place, and the blend of all of those painful moments and experiences forged something beautiful, uplifting and electric.
With each one of those inconsequential sets and spikes and points, the arena shook. But it might have been the entire earth shaking, shaking with the power of individuals who by their sheer ability to move and to play this game demonstrated a belief in themselves that was awe-inspiring.
The third set was just as exciting as expected, with the Army winning 15-13 to secure the upset. As the winning point skittered off a Marines hand and out of bounds, those on the court from Army that could stand, hopped up in elation. Those that couldn’t wrapped their knuckles on the hardwood and beat their chests.
It was a moment that has occurred in high school gyms, college stadiums and professional arenas countless times before. But this time it carried a sense of purity unlike anything else.