Of all the various teams in the realm of sports, not many actually have the opportunity to claim that title.
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the State Girls Basketball championship game. My hometown Cardinals were poised to take home some hefty hardware.
And they did.
Of course great joy and celebration ensued at the sound of the final buzzer.
But for a select group of women in those stands or watching at home, there was a huge sense of relief.
For a moment, I think we all let out a sigh and muttered under our breath, "FINALLY."
You see, twenty years ago an assembly of teenage girls laced up their hightops and ran onto the civic center floor in hopes of attaining that coveted championship, too.
But we failed miserably.
No seriously. It was the largest point spread in state basketball history.
Humiliating. We, in a word, choked.
Fast forward to last night - and sure, I'll be the first one to admit we were living vicariously through this incredible team of athletes - and we were redeemed.
As badly as we wanted that championship trophy 20 years ago, before us was a team that would finally snatch it up.
And the comment I made to the coach after the game was, "Thank you for finishing it for us." He understood because he was the first coach to lead us to a championship. When we were mere 12-year-olds, he taught us the fundamentals of the game, and we learned what it meant to become a team. We won our 7th Grade Tourney under his direction, and thus began the hopeful dreams of one day getting to the state championship game.
So we did it. But like I mentioned, it wasn't pretty.
For twenty years we've heard,"Oh, yeah, you're the team that got killed in the championship game." But that's okay. Let's face it, it's accurate.
It's nice to know after last night a new legacy has begun.
It's highly enjoyable to get caught up in the big game...cheering and laughing and fretting and hoping. They're kids. There's lots of energy. It's fun.
But we understand what they don't yet - that this game isn't everything.
That the pleasure of the game will fade with time, the trophy will get tossed into a box and forgotten, and that newly embroidered "State Champs" jacket will eventually wind up in the back of the closet next to their graduation gown and old prom dress.
That all the excitement, the fun, the achievement...will pale in comparison to one day watching their own daughter play the game, or get that A in algebra, or recover from a surgery, or - gasp - walk down the wedding aisle.
While I loved playing the game, and loved my teammates, what I find even better is peering into small snippets of their lives of today.
Today we're moms, we're career women, we're homemakers and wives. We're tough as nails but soft as teddy bears.
We know the value of hard work. The value of sacrifice. And the value of a TEAM.
Because once you're a part of that, it's something that never leaves you. It's what defines a champion, whether you have the shiny medal or not.
So congratulations, Lady Cards. Victory is sweet. But the journey ahead of you is even sweeter.