On Sunday I tried out with a league volleyball team. I'm relatively new in town, and I was a free agent. They wanted to make sure I could play first, which I had no problem with. We played a weak team, and our setter told us "See that guy with the glasses? This is his fourth game ever--he's awful! I saw him play Wednesday. Try to aim at him if you can!"
We killed in the first game, but the second game was tight. It was about 20-19, us, and I was hitting strong side in the front row. I was antsy--the game was slipping away, and I knew it. If you've ever played pickup, you know the feeling of fear when you realize the other team wants it more than you do. Pickup ball isn't really about talent, to a certain extent. It's about the will to win, and which team is willing to eat sand, wood, or gravel to get the ball first.
Our weak side hitter was decent, but he was matched up against the other team's two strongest players on blocks. He got a weak spike off, and then got blocked on the next volley. I was seething with unusual rage. I made eye contact with our setter when she looked my way and half-hissed, half-growled "Feed me!"
I was embarrassed, quite honestly--here I am trying to make a good impression on this team, and I'm growling at our setter. The words came out before I could stop them. (I'm lucky a certain 5-letter word didn't follow; thank you, conservative upbringing!). I tried to correct myself by making a plaintive head nod towards my opponent on the other side of the net. It was the guy with the glasses. She set me the next two times, I scored, and we won.
Why did I tell this story? (It's not because intermediate volleyball is so fascinating, promise). Because it taught me a lesson. Whenever a Terrell Owens, Dwight Howard, or Shaq pops off in the media about wanting the ball more, I used to scoff. "Ooh, what a baby! Work hard and stop talking, and you'll get the rock!"But then I think of that game on Sunday...and how I was utterly helpless to take advantage of my matchup. My hopes for helping our team were completely on the shoulders of our short setter. I could jump out of the gym and be 7'0", but it made NO difference unless she decided she wanted to set me. I felt powerless. And I realized that it's exactly how a big strong guy like Shaq or TO must feel when their fate is in the hands of a short guard or scrawny QB. Next time some wide receiver or center complains about not getting the ball enough, I'm keeping my mouth shut. I've learned my lesson.