It was an early somber November afternoon. It was chilly meaning winter was approaching. Today was going to be an exciting day.
My hockey team was in the Silverstick finals and we were looking to win it all. I loved hockey. I loved absolutely everything about it. It was my main escape from almost everything.
I had my game day ritual, which always consisted of the same routine. Poached eggs and seasoned bacon for breakfast with a big glass of apple juice.
Followed by a two kilometer run on the treadmill just to get my legs going. I listened to my pump-up music playlist throughout the day to get me in the zone.
I ended will my pre-game meal: a high carb late lunch/early dinner. Today it was ravioli and a chunky meaty sauce that my mom made from scratch.
We weren’t Italian but my mom made an unbelievable pasta sauce.
Above all, my favorite game day ritual was to play Ping-Pong with my dad to get my hand-eye coordination spot on. I have never beaten him in a game in my entire sixteen-year life.
I’ve looked forward to the day of being victorious.
Some of my relatives are coming over for dinner and to cheer me on for the big game. It was 3 pm, five hours until game time.
I had just finished going for my run when I saw my dad on my way to the shower.
“So, Adam, all your uncles and cousins are coming over before your game to play some Ping-Pong. Are you in?” My dad shouts rhetorically as if he thinks I’m going to turn him down.
“I’m in, dad, but this time I’m looking to take over as champion.” I tease.
“We’ll see about that, shorty.” He chuckles.
I was only an inch shorter than my dad, yet he always had a way to rub it in my face. I got my competitive side from him. It was one of my best attributes.
I walk towards my room as I dry myself off after taking an icy-cold shower. Ice-cold showers help wake up my muscles. I took them all the time before my games.
As I’m just about done drying myself off I glance at my alarm clock on top of my nightstand. It’s 4 pm. My family will be coming over soon. Four hours until game time.
It was 5:30 pm. My family was gathered around our dining room table, ready to dig into my mom’s homemade feast.
My uncle Joe proposed a toast to me wishing me good luck in my game and everyone clinked glasses. This was a huge game against a tough team. I needed all the luck I could get.
I stuffed the last piece of ravioli on my plate into my mouth. Boy, was I ever full. I look towards my uncle Joe sitting across the table. He was on his third plate of pasta. What a guy.
My little cousins were done eating half an hour ago and continued to play mini hockey in the family room. I got up from my seat looking to join them.
“Thanks for dinner, mom, it was amazing!” I said while giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“No problem, sweetie.” She says with a satisfied smile on her face.
I rinse my sauced filled plate in the sink and put it in the dishwasher. I look over to my cousins and see them going at it.
I just was about to sit down and join my cousins when my dad shouted from the dining room.
“Ping-Pong tournament time!”
Here we go. Championship Sunday I think to myself. I’m going for all the marbles.
One after the other my entire family walks downstairs to the basement where my Ping-Pong table is set up.
My basement wasn’t the biggest so we just set up our table on top of the pool table to save room. It did the trick.
After multiple games, I found myself in the semifinals playing against my uncle Joe. The other semi was between my dad and my cousin, Greg.
The game was up to twenty-one with alternating five serves each. It was game point. I was leading my uncle Joe 20-17. It was my serve and I was ready to end it.
I tossed the ball in the air and whacked it with my paddle giving it topspin. My uncle returned my hot serve with a lob and I over hand smashed it into the open side of the table.
That’s the game. I won and was set to play my dad in the finals after he destroyed my cousin by ten points.
“Ready to lose, shorty?” My dad sneers.
“We’ll see who ends up being the loser.” I counter.
We rallied for the first serve. My dad smashed my return. His serve.
We went back and forth in a close game. Neither of us led by more than 2 points the entire match. It came down to the wire. The score was tied 20-20 meaning I had to win by two. My serve.
I tossed the ball in the air and hit the ball at a sixty-degree angle resulting in my signature topspin serve. My dad returned it with ease and we went back and forth.
We alternated from forehand to backhand and rallied for nearly a minute. My dad made a mistake and didn’t put any spin on his return. I smashed it into the open side of the table. It was 21-20.
Match point. My dad served the ball with aggression. I returned it on my backhand. My dad countered with a backhand smash that barely had any spin on it. This was my chance.
I lobbed the ball just over the net seeing that my dad was a few feet back after his smash. He couldn’t reach it. The ball bounced once and the spin took it off the table.
I won! I finally beat my dad after all these years!
“Great game, Adam! Now let's see you win your hockey game.” My dad says proudly.
It was 7 pm. One hour until game time.
The game was in overtime, tied 2-2. It was fast-paced and competitive for both teams.
Oh shit. They have a breakaway. Number nineteen was sprinting down the ice with the puck, just crossing our blue line.
He fakes the shot and dekes to his backhand and puts it in the top shelf of the net. Just above our goalie’s blocker. It’s over. We lost.
I look over at my teammates on the bench and they all have their heads down. It was heartbreaking. We should’ve won that game.
After I took a shower and began getting dressed into my neatly ironed suit I began worrying about what my family would say to me. I played terribly and felt so embarrassed.
I walked out of the changing room, turned the corner and saw my whole family with surprising smiles on their faces. Why were they smiling? My team lost.
I approach my mom and she gives me a huge hug.
“Great job, Adam. Keep your head up, you can’t win them all.” She says.
I look at my dad and uncle Joe and they both have proud looks on their faces.
“You guys played well, the ending was just an unlucky break.” My uncle sympathizes.
“It takes a lot more pride to accept a loss in order to become a true winner, Adam.” My dad says.
“You didn’t fail all those years in losing to me at Ping-Pong, you just found hundreds of ways that don’t work.” He concluded.
I put my bag down and hugged my dad.