Monday, December 19, 2005

A Return To Germantown: Letting Go of My Immature Hate

As I noted earlier, it would have been easy for me to stay in last Thursday night and just watch the Wisconsin vs. UWM game on television. But when faced with a friend who wanted to go to a high school game featuring Cedarburg and Germantown, at Germantown High School, I figured it would be good for me to head out to Germantown for the game. It turned out that it was a pretty good game, and featured a handful of talented players that I never expected to see at Germantown or Cedarburg. The game itself exceeded some low expectations that I had. But my attendance that night had a greater significance than simply watching basketball. As such, rather than giving my usual game recap, I’d like to tell my painful story of how I returned to the Germantown gym for the first time in 13 years.

You see, I’ve been carrying around lots of anger since my only prior trip to the Germantown gym. That trip came in 1993 as a wide–eyed freshman playing for my freshman basketball team, back when Germantown was in my school’s conference. It wasn’t what you would call a horrific night by any means. In fact, it was more or less just a moment of slight disrespect that rankles me, but for some reason it has been one of those nights that has stuck with me over the years and continually made me angry when I think about it.

The first hint that my maiden voyage to Germantown would be a rough one was when my team lost our game to a team that we would have beaten nine times out of ten. I could have pushed the loss to the back of my head, though, and been content the rest of the evening. But things didn’t end there. No, there were more indignities to be suffered.

After a long game (that I probably didn’t get into, but definitely warmed up hard for), I headed into the Germantown gym a thirsty boy. I noticed that several of the JV players who had finished their game as well (back in those days, the freshmen teams got shipped to the local middle school and played games at the same time as the JV) were sitting in the stands drinking sodas, so one of my teammates and I headed to find the soda machine. Both of us purchased sodas, and headed back to the gym. Just before entering, I noticed a sign that stated "No Food of Drink Allowed in Gymnasium." Of course, just minutes earlier I had noticed other people openly drinking beverages much like mine while sitting in the gymnasium. I figured, based on what I had seen, that the rules were not real tightly enforced, so I’d take my soda in. A frightened conformist by nature, though, I still somewhat feared the rules, so I tucked the soda in my shirt sleeve, just to be extra safe.

Of course, one of the Germantown supervisors working the game that night saw me the moment that I cracked my soda open. Apparently the rules were now being enforced, as he motioned me down toward him, to the taunts of my teammates and the older JV players. I descended the bleachers and approached the supervisor. I’ll never forget the exchange that came as I got close. I looked at the supervisor and said to him "Sorry about that." After all, I knew that I had broken the rules of the gym and I was indeed sorry about that fact, even if the newly begun rule enforcement left me slightly baffled. The supervisor’s reply to me? "You’re not sorry, studly. I saw you sneak that in under your sleeve."

To this day that reply still pisses me off. When the situation began, I was clearly in the wrong–breaking the rules of the gym. Of course, I recognized this fact, and did the only thing that I could think to do when called on it–apologize and leave the gym until I was done with my drink. What did that approach get me? I was told that my apology was not genuine and then was called a name. Sure, I was a 14 year-old kid who did a dumb (and very minor) thing, so I recognize that I didn’t exactly deserve thanks for being so contrite, but I also didn’t deserve to be called "studly." I angrily gulped the soda down and returned to my seat, annoyed that anyone working in a school setting could show such blind disrespect for a teenager. I spent the rest of the night wishing that I had offered a subsequent reply of "Okay, never mind then. I’m not sorry at all." The good lines never hit your brain until five minutes after the fact, though, and I most certainly would not have had the guts to attempt such a line at the age of 14, anyway.

To my delight, my school shifted conferences the next year, and I was never forced to return to the hated Germantown gym. I definitely thought of the supervisor over the years, and silently wished him ill will. I also vowed to never pay money to see a game at Germantown.

But Thursday night I figured that 13 years was probably enough time to let go of the hate. I returned to the Germantown gym, eager to watch a game and remain un-hassled. I saw no one old enough to be the supervisor that I had dealt with so many years ago. In fact, to my delight, it occurred to me that the supervisor that I had dealt with was likely too old to be a teacher there anymore. The people that I did see patrolling the gym were generally respectful, and helpful to attendees. So it is now official–my demons have been exercised, and when the event presents itself, I will be happy to return to the Germantown gym. Thank goodness the era of the rogue supervisor is over.


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