A hike by any other name is still a hike.
Fellow Coloradan Amy of Run Write Hike chronicled a hike through a place called 40-mile gulch. I got nostalgic for trails. It’s been years. I think my inner Coloradan yearns for it. Like a shepherd dog does for sheep. Or a sparrow does for McDonald’s French fries.
Amy told with pictures and words what her hike entailed. I’ll do the same today, about our hike, to Davidson, for the second round of the state 1A girls soccer playoffs.
Davidson is a hike, off the interstate, onto country roads that wind and dip. Past farm-equipment crossing signs. We didn’t get any pictures of those. Or of the motorcycles. Or of the banners that tempt you to spend a Saturday night watching bull-riding.
You’ll reach a small college town, with lots of money and big houses to prove it.
You’ll reach a place of fit running mamas on every sidewalk. A few guys, too. Lawns and American flags and historic homes. And behind them, a hidden field where a No. 1 seed awaits. That’s daunting.
Your hike, then, seems to take you to the edge of the volcano as a sacrifice.
But it doesn’t feel like that. Not when you’re wearing your school colors and the score is still nil-nil. Not when you have nothing to lose. Not when you’ve hung with other top teams, just a break or two away from an upset. There’s a comfort in the underdog. Because the underdog will become the dark horse.
Sometimes, the goals come against you early. It’s tough to keep the underdog running when that happens.
1-0. 2-0. 3-0. Tough goals become shots you don’t see until it’s too late. Chances to counter fizzle on the loose turf. The opposing fans on the sideline start to look more like a cocktail party than a rabid soccer following. A 4-0 lead will do that.
There’s a difference between the schools. If you told our school’s parents they would become middle class tomorrow, many would celebrate. If you told their school’s parents they would become middle class tomorrow, many would weep.
That doesn’t matter, though. Because even when it’s 5-0, and they don’t even applaud a score, the team still goes for the jugular. Again and again. Only they find a tougher go of it. If you’re not going to topple the top seed, you’ll hope they feel it that they’ve played you.
6-0 and 7-0 are much tougher to reach – but they get there.
You think less about the bracket at that point and more about next season. Or lunch on the way home. But you don’t want to stop in Davidson. You can’t get out of there soon enough. In 90 minutes, you develop so much dislike for the other team.
There will be tears.
How could there not be? Because even when you’re the underdog, you expect to win. And the hate you develop isn’t bad sportsmanship. It’s competitiveness. Just wait until next year. Hope we get you again. You’ll see. Even if we didn’t get the chance to become the dark horse this time.
The postgame hug from dad will be a little tighter, linger a little longer. The tears? Don’t hide them. Don’t choke them back. Let’s get out of here. Past the running mamas and college campus and motorcycles and lush lawns.
Past the bull riding and the tractor crossing. Those tears and that hurt can feel unexpected.
But queso before your entrée is also unexpected. I don’t know if it’s cause-and-effect, but that hatred loses its edge. Just a bit. The talk moves from frustration to recollection.
To finding praise for a new teammate who might be about to eat real Mexican food with you, too.
And talk will turn to next year, or to summer, or to when that entrée gets to your table.
This hike doesn’t end here. It goes on, through an offseason. First, on a ride home, when you don’t forget, but root for whoever that team plays next. Because it’s in your blood, and there’ll be another day to play.
No referees, no coaches to micromanage your every move.
Kick, dive, pass, laugh.
A reminder of why you play the game, of what made you want to put the cleats and shin guards on in the first place.
When you were little.
Because that’s where the hike began.