Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The US Open: AMDG

Considering that my vacation started on June 1, I'm not looking for any sympathy. But, I'm exhausted. I have no doubt my fellow teachers would agree.  The beginning of the school year is akin to getting a plane off the ground.  It takes tremendous energy and momentum to get a flight into the air. Teaching high school just isn't much different.  Which is exactly why I am grateful for the fourth and final grand slam of the year for tennis--the US Open. 
Andy Murray will defend both his 2012 US Open title and the last grand slam event—Wimbledon 2013
The US Open is the contrast I need.  For the past ten years, I came home from a full day of teaching and coaching cross country unable to move.  The couch is my solace; ESPN my savior. Watching the world's greatest tennis players grind it out late at night in New York is electric. My body may not be able to move, but my mind revels in seeing these great athletes sweat it out under the lights.

On the rare occasion that I caught a great match or an epic upset, I could not wait to return to school the next day to discuss it with my colleague Bill, a tennis fan and tennis coach. The one US Open that will forever stay with me was in 2006: Andre Agassi's final championship. My student Matt was proud of his Cyprian Greek heritage.  Imagine his delight when the number eight player in the world, Marcos Baghdatis from Cyprus was slated to play Andre Agassi.
In his autobiography "Open" Agassi relives that incredible night.
In the first round I play Andrei Pavel, from Romania. My back seizes up midway through the match, but despite standing stick straight I tough out a win. I ask Darren to arrange a cortisone shot for the next day. Even with the shot, I don't know if I'll be able to play my next match.
I certainly won't be able to win. Not against Marcos Baghdatis. He's ranked No. 8 in the world. He's a big strong kid from Cyprus, in the midst of a great year. He's reached the final of the Australian Open and the semis of Wimbledon. 
And then somehow I beat him, in five furious, agonizing sets. Afterward I'm barely able to stagger up the tunnel and into the locker room before my back gives out. Darren and Gil lift me onto the training table, while Baghdatis's people hoist him onto the table beside me. He's cramping badly. A trainer says the doctors are on the way. He turns on the TV above the table, and everyone clears out, leaving just me and Baghdatis, both of us writhing and groaning in pain. 
The TV flashes highlights from our match. SportsCenter. In my peripheral vision I detect slight movement. I turn to see Baghdatis extending his hand. His face says, We did that. I reach out, take his hand, and we remain this way, holding hands, as the TV flickers with highlights of our savage battle. We relive the match, and then I relive my life.
How many athletes can look at one another and say "We did that."
I remember that match, because despite my exhaustion, I didn't fall asleep...I couldn't go to bed until the winner prevailed.  An Agassi fan, my heart went out to Matt and his kinsman.  To read Agassi's take-away from that evening confirms it was something much more than a routine or regular tennis match. Also, it was much more of a game.

When athletes raise the level of the game to a place where one can reach out his hand to the other, where each can say "we did that"...not "I did that," I have a much better sense of what AMDG means.
AMDG or “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”  is the Latin motto for the Society of Jesus meaning "for the greater glory of God."  Perhaps you find its meaning self-evident, but I need some teeth to it.  What does AMDG look like?  When did I see it last?  How would this community be different if we weren't guided by AMDG?  This match is a shining example.  I can think of a few others--the 2013 Masters is one.  

What does AMDG look like to you?  Have you found it at a sports event?  The 2013 US Open is underway....teachers—put your feet up and enjoy!

Photo Credits
Agassi and Baghdatis at the net
Emotional game

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