Back from the GOYA Olympics, sunburned, exhausted and a little bummed.
(A little reminder: GOYA = Greek Orthodox Youth of America, not the beans.)
After a quick win of our first softball game, the Archangels team moved on to the next round where they faced off against some serious teen athletes. In very short order, they were kicked to the sidelines, but not without putting up a good fight.
Let me back up a little: We arrived at Suffolk County Community College early yesterday morning to find a couple thousand young athletes, their parents and silblings had taken over just about every corner of the campus. Luck was on our side as the sun was shining (although we could have done without the humidity).
This is a mammoth event, some 30 years running, with games and activities of all kinds for kids of all ages: swimming, track and field, soccer, softball, volleyball, table tennis — you name it. The only requirement is that the athletes be in good standing with their Orthodox church. The events attract serious athletes and occasional sports dabblers and get the kids to meet and compete against peers from throughout the tri-state area. (Somehow, I kept thinking of Harry Potter’s Tri-Wizard Tournament.)
I had not been before and didn’t know what to expect. Also, I attend church with Basil and Catherine, who we baptized in Basil’s church in Stamford, but I am a Lutheran, not an Orthodox Christian, so am not always wise to various church traditions and guidelines.
Some 26 churches were represented yesterday, their big banners hung proudly in the stands to denote their spaces (and hold spots for countless coolers of snacks, sandwiches, bottles of water, etc.)
Many of the parish priests attend as well, so among the street clothes, cleats, team jerseys and baseball caps were serious-looking men, some wearing full robes, gold crosses and ecclesiastical headgear, others wearing baseball caps with their robes. Forgive me, but I did a double-take every time.
In short, it was a Hellenic good time (I know, I know, but I couldn’t resist).
Another hallmark of the day was the strange phenomenon of Greek time. Everything ran late. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Our day started with a winning softball game.
No, I don’t know who we played or the score. I was busy tramping all the way back to the car for sunscreen and blankets and by the time I returned, they’d won and moved on to another field. I was left, arms full and wandering amid the clumps of 4-inch-tall grass and clover while kids yelled, “Hey lady: Look out.”
I eventually found the team — without getting clocked by a softball, thank you very much — and made a quick note to self about the stupidity of wearing flip-flops.
The second game did not go well. We were way out of our league against a team that had some serious athletes. Still we tried.
Basil pitched both games (his first time on the mound in god knows how many years) and Catherine even hit the ball — much to her amazement. It was thrown to first before she could get there, though.
So now we had time to kill before volleyball was to start in a couple of hours. We unpacked our sandwiches, chips, cookies and fruit in the stands, checked out the soccer games.
Watched the little kids from other churches relay race.
People-watched (who brings a dog to an event like this and then walks it across the middle of the gymnasium?!)
Visited with the Go-Go boot-wearing NJ Rangers cheerleader who was on site and glad to take a picture with any prepubescent boy or over-the-hill man who wanted one.
The volleyball games were to start at 1 pm, but that hour came and went. A couple of our kids who’d come directly from the Fairfield Prep prom grabbed a beach blanket, found a shady spot and took a nap.
One of our kids wandered off to the table tennis arena and won our only medal of the day: A gold! Way to go, Nick.
We waited some more, our rear ends numb in the stands. One mom and I took a walk around campus, where I again cursed the decision to wear flip-flops. When we returned, the volleyball games were finally starting, but the waiting continued. It was 4:30 before we got our shot (turns out there were 60 teams that had to play on three courts, so even though they were playing to 15 and not 25, the minutes dragged and dragged). Sad to say that by 5:30, we were getting the cars packed up to head home.
One mom had promised me the Olympics would be a blast. She and I have different definitions of that word, I think. Still, it was a good day. The kids had fun. Kids like Catherine challenged themselves a bit (a hit in softball and a really nice try on the volleyball court).
And we all have today to recover.