Gaylord Welker - The first Martian, 1952.
A profile of a previously unknown rookie pitcher for the Mets who dropped out of Harvard, made a spiritual quest to Tibet, and somewhere along the line figured out how to throw a baseball much, much faster than anyone else on Earth.Sports Illustrated | Apr 1985|
by Sam Rabinovitz
“Interception! And that’s the game folks! 20-15 to the Stirling Clansmen, the 2013-14 National Champions!” A cry of elation erupted on the Clansmen side-line as the Scotsmen in green rushed the field, celebrating their victory over the defending national champions. The supporters made their way down the stairs of the John Charles Stadium in Leeds, jumping for joy as the Clansmen take their first BUAFL championship in over a decade.
With teary eyes and crushed dreams, we lined up at the halfway line to congratulate and shake the hands of truly worthy competitors who had given us the challenge we seek every time we step out onto the field. One by one we marched up the stairs to graciously accept our silver medals before creating a guard of honour for the reigning champions behind us.
It wasn’t until this morning, sat in Selly Sausage with many of the players, coaches and staff, laughing and joking about last night’s post-game antics that something Coach Hill had said on Friday night’s talk with the team really sunk in for me. He’d said that he’d never asked us why we play this sport, why we dedicate so much of our time to this team, and in all honesty, I hadn’t even considered it.
I’ll be the first to tell you that throughout high school I wasn’t exactly what you’d refer to as an athlete. I hadn’t even played any American football other than Madden prior to that first trial with the Lions. So what on earth would make me join such an explosively violent sport? Contrary to my mum’s beliefs, it wasn’t simply to scare the life out of her. I guess the first thing that appealed to me was the prestige of being an American footballer. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never steered a conversation onto this topic and I’m certain that I’m not the only one!
Then there’s the fact that I’m in an entirely new city, far away from home and my best friends, planning on spending the next few years here. I am not ashamed to say that I was just as terrified as I was excited and just like every single one of us, I wanted to be involved in these societies and teams just to make some friends.
So here I was, on the Bournbrook 3G pitches amongst fifty others, looking to pick up a hobby and maybe make some friends. I’m going to make you all queasy and tell you that as cliché as it is; I found way more than that on that September afternoon. I found a family.
Maybe I hadn’t realised it until yesterday. Until for the first time in twenty-four games as a Lion, I witnessed us lose. That what the coaches preach to us is completely and utterly factual. That no matter what may happen, every person on this team is there for me as I am there for them. I mean, of course I knew there are more than enough individuals on the team that I can trust with my life, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I saw the sense of loyalty and brotherhood that this program installs in every single one of us.
That’s the reason we spend those rainy evenings running drills. That’s the reason we pedantically analyse game-film every week. If all we wanted was personal physical perfection we can achieve that in the gym. We want to make it to the top if and only our brothers are there with us. That’s the reason these Lion alumni keep coming back to every xpLosION. That’s the reason behind ‘Once, Always, Forever’. That’s the reason I’m so astoundingly proud to call myself a Birmingham Lion.
So, to the Clansmen, I hope that you treasured every second of this weekend and that you’ll look back on it forever as I look back on April 20th 2013.
And to my Lions, it’s been my greatest honour and privilege to play alongside each and every one of you and I cannot tell you just how much I will miss you all and every aspect of being a Lion during my year abroad at Illinois or how eager I am to return and kit up for xpLosION2015. So don’t lick your wounds, cherish them. The scars you bear are the sign of a praiseworthy competitor. Just because you don’t always win, doesn’t mean you don’t know how to roar.