Black and Gold–by Tinker Jacobs Duclo (WBB, 94-97)
This weekend, my crew, the 1994-1995 women’s basketball team, reunites to celebrate. We ended our season undefeated in Big 8 play, as conference champions, with a trip to the Elite Eight. It was a stellar, and now historic, run. However, another season statistic also remains.
On a March night in Iowa City, twenty-five years ago, we lost.
My purpose is not to cast a dark pallor on the festivities of this weekend. We will laugh and remember many other moments, and laugh some more. Yet, I ask you to bear with me, as we are black as well as gold, and must not dismiss either the blackness, nor the gold that gleams alongside it.
We were up by a decent margin, our defense solid. We were going to win– we knew it– and we started to celebrate, just a little bit, at that last timeout, but when the final buzzer sounded, it was Georgia who flooded the floor. We gathered at the bench, and, dazed, filed over to shake hands with the red clad players and coaches.
As the jubilant Bulldogs donned Final Four baseball caps and danced, the defeated Buffaloes retreated down the long concrete corridor to the locker room. Save a few drops of water splashing onto the shower tiles, we entered silence. We slumped down on the benches and untied our shoes. The coaches entered. They didn’t know what to say either. The media wanted few sound-bytes, so several of our spokeswomen reluctantly returned to the microphones. We pulled off our shoes.
In the grand scheme of life and lives on this planet, was is a big hurt, a small hurt?
How could our young selves know what the next quarter century would bring? We didn’t yet know what it felt like to bury a parent, to fear for a baby, to feel a relationship tangle and unravel, to see expectations shatter.
In the intervening years, we have failed in our professional lives. We have been disillusioned and deeply depressed. We have disappointed others. We have been touched by addiction, betrayal and suicide. We have learned of the diagnosis. We have felt bright, searing pain, and deeper, aching emptiness.
We have loved and learned. And lost and lost and lost.
And yet, we still have the audacity to celebrate and smile— as we should.
The gold harmonizes with the black. This weekend we will laugh. We will celebrate the small victories of surviving practices with our feet bandaged and covered in blisters, and getting through the 6 a.m. weight room work-outs. We will sing 90’s hits. We will remember the last second victory against Kansas beneath the festooned rafters in Allen Fieldhouse. We will celebrate the 30 wins of that season. We will rejoice in being together again and reminisce about that bright season. We will share the vast victories of our lives today.
However, we all remember; it’s still there. We can still conjure that same sick feeling in our stomachs, and our chests still contract as we think about the end in Iowa City.
You, my reader, have those dark moments, too. As such, I honor your strength, I honor your wounds, your scars, and the dark doorways in which you have stood. I know not of the confusing corridors through which you will still pass.
But, just like those fifteen young women sitting in a silent locker room as the Georgia Bulldogs celebrated beyond the door, you are immeasurably strong. All the work and preparation that brought those girls to that place is not lost. All that followed, the minutes, hours, days and years, most certainly hold myriad moments of golden glitter.
There will always be reasons to unlace your shoes and cry, but there will always be reasons– reasons and seasons, public and proud, solitary and silent– to celebrate.
We left the locker room. I wish I could say we left all of our tears there. We didn’t, and still we lose, again and again, but still we celebrate.