By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold
When we first arrived at Camp Chi, we were given a tour of the Camp’s massive property, which is roughly four times as big as Camp Gray. The rest of the Camp Gray crew seemed excited and confident. Deep down in the pit of my stomach, ‘nervous butterflies’ were battling it out with ‘excited butterflies’ for butterflies-in-my-stomach-supremacy. The task before us was a tall one. I now know how David must have felt before he faced off with Goliath. But then, off in the distance, we saw it: the most obvious of omens. A Camp Chi camper was wearing a “Wolfpack Wednesday” shirt. David did beat Goliath after all…
It started as a challenge to a friendly game of basketball.
If you’ve been to Camp Gray in the past couple years, you know that we don’t lack for tall staff members. Additionally, we don’t lack for folks that could pass for quality basketball players. For as long as I’ve been around these parts, a game (or two, or three) of staff basketball occurs nearly every weekend. Early on in my time at Camp Gray, it was standard for the game to take place Saturday morning, while in recent summers the game has been moved to Friday evening. Also, there are variations of how teams are chosen – sometimes we attempt to divide the teams by skill level, while other times we pit future/present religious vs. lay people (I believe the lay folks have a commanding record of 14 wins vs. 1 loss – though the religious probably have a commanding eternal record.)
After a while, it gets old playing against the same competition, and our staff began talking about taking our talents to Camp Chi. Camp Chi is a Jewish Camp a mere 4.7 miles away on the outskirts of the Wisconsin Dells.
Camp Chi has more international staff – mostly from England – than we have staff total. The most popular sport in the world, and especially in England, is not basketball, rather it involves kicking a ball into a net. Because of this, Camp Chi counter challenged with a friendly game of soccer.
The only problem was that while basketball players around these parts are a dime a dozen, soccer players are a little harder to come by. In an effort to gauge skill level of our soccer players, a sign-up sheet was passed around during a staff meeting a couple weeks before the game. Along with the names of those interested in playing, we requested that folks rank their skill level on a scale of 1-to-10.
After analyzing the data, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t consider bringing in a ringer or two. Alas, we decided that it wasn’t worth winning unless we won with a team entirely made up of the dedicated and passionate staffers of Camp Gray 2012. The decision was made, and so our hopes were hung on the collectively huge hearts of the Camp Gray crew. Would this heart help to inspire us to play like world-class soccer players and lead us to victory? A lot can be said about the boost in skill by merely looking like world-class soccer players, which is why we contacted the friendly folks at BaraT’s in Baraboo (THANKS BaraT’s!), and they were able to help us screen print a unique jersey for the big match. Yes, we looked like a world-class soccer team. The question remained though; “Would we play like a world class soccer team?”
This brings us back to the “Wolfpack Wednesday” shirt seen on a Camp Chi camper. If you had a camper at Camp Gray this summer, maybe you heard about “Wolfpack Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday this past summer male staffers would wear a t-shirt with two large wolves – one on the front and one on the back. A funny tradition that spawned from the wearing of these t-shirts was that when male staffers would cross paths, a friendly wolf howl would be exchanged. Many have asked the etiology of “Wolfpack Wednesdays.”
Allow me to briefly explain: A few of our male staffers were at Wal-Mart during Staff Training, shopping for some bare essentials, when they stumbled across a unique t-shirt unlike any these guys had ever laid their eyes upon. After further investigating, it was discovered that the shirts were made of 100% polyester. Two large wolves – one on the front, one on the back – on a t-shirt entirely made of poly (we’re not talking 50/50 here, folks!). Though the t-shirts were classic, they couldn’t bring themselves to purchase the shirts that day. A couple weeks later, though, a few of those same guys made a return visit to Wal-Mart, and they couldn’t contain themselves. Wolf shirts became the norm for the gentlemen of Camp Gray on Wednesdays.
So, when the Camp Gray crew was getting a tour of Camp Chi, and off in the distance a Camp Chi camper was seen wearing a “Wolfpack Wednesday” shirt, how do you think the multitude of Camp Grayers reacted? Yes indeed, wolf howls were heard for miles around!
We finally arrived at the soccer field, where we briefly stretched, warmed up, and then, GAME ON! Early in the first of three 30-minute periods (we wanted to play a standard 90-minute game, but two 45-minute halves seemed a bit arduous – I even argued for ten 9-minute tenths), it was apparent that the fearless members of the Camp Gray soccer team weren’t going to go quietly into the night. Nay, effort was at full throttle, and our stellar goalkeeping play – split up between the incredible cat-like reflexes of the Cooney Brothers – would keep us in the game, so long as we could score a goal or two.
Camp Chi got on the board first, and took a one-nil lead into the first intermission. Though Camp Gray was down, spirits were high, as were our electrolyte levels. This was thanks to the consumption of orange slices, which were prepared by our multitude of soccer moms that were on hand cheering on the team.
To start the second period, Peter was replaced in goal by his brother Eric, in the hopes that Peter could spark a scoring opportunity for the Gray. Turns out, that gutsy decision paid dividends, as Peter netted a goal not five minutes into the period. Just like that, little Hickory High, er, Camp Gray, was on the board, and we had ourselves a ballgame.
Ten minutes after Peter’s goal tied the game at one, Camp Gray striker David Masak buried a shot into the back of the net, giving Camp Gray a two-one lead, and igniting an other-worldly celebration by the countless Camp Gray faithful.
Then, just before the end of the second period, David broke free once again and scored yet another goal. It’s not that the Camp Gray supporters and players weren’t optimistic; I think it’s just that most were realistic. Nobody could have predicted a 3-1 lead after two periods.
The second intermission, between the second and third period was tense. We knew that if we didn’t hold off the sure-to-come-late-game surge of the Camp Chi team, and lost this game, we’d regret it for the rest of our lives (or at least until the next afternoon…). An inspiring and motivational pep-talk was given by midfielder Ryan McGrath to keep us loose, and we headed back onto the field shortly thereafter to defend our 2-goal lead for 30 more minutes.
That ‘sure-to-come-late-game-surge’ by Camp Chi did in fact come, and they unloaded a barrage of shots on the Camp Gray goal. Peter was back in the goal for the third period, and shot after Camp Chi shot was deflected over, past, and by the Camp Gray goal. With only about five minutes left, Camp Chi poked in one more goal, but it would prove to be too little too late.
As the ref counted down the final seconds of the game, I heard in the distance, over the excitement of the boisterous Camp Gray crowd, the voice of Al Michaels proclaim, “Do you believe in Miracles…? YES!” And then, immediately after that, over the loud speakers came the song ‘Heroes’ by the Wallflowers (my memory might have made up these post-game details, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story…)!
Camp Gray, 3 – Camp Chi, 2. As it turns out, ringers weren’t needed. The Camp Gray team showed great heart, passion, and a will to win. For some of the Grayers, it was a will to win a sport that they weren’t even that familiar with. It wasn’t uncommon to hear Camp Gray staffers asking Camp Chi staffers specific rules of soccer, leading Ryan McGrath to quip after the game, “We beat them at a game they know very well, while at the same time asking them how to play.”
Thanks to all played, that cheered, that provided orange slices, and that hollered words of encouragement. It was truly a beautiful afternoon of soccer, an afternoon that won’t soon be forgotten.
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