Previously, on the Summer of Zen…
“I hate the Blue Dynasty.”
And now, the exciting conclusion of A Date With Dynasty.
Amazingly, most of the details from the week itself elude me to this day. I can only remember a handful of things: White getting screwed out of Junior Football, Dan Abrams putting on the performance of a lifetime as Satan in the White play, and the staredown I shared with E.J. Kimball during the reading of the rules for Senior Hoops A. At some point during the rules, I caught him staring at me, and for some reason I couldn’t look away. Before I knew it, I was staring daggers right back at him. Neither of us batted an eyelash for five minutes. By the time the game was ready to start, I was literally shaking from the level of intensity I had reached. I never wanted to beat somebody so badly. I was prepared to die on that court if it meant first watching the Dynasty crawl back to the Rec Hall in defeat.
Of course, we lost the game and the war. Sometimes, just wanting it isn’t enough. No matter what I was willing to do to secure victory, it was just out of my grasp. That might be the greatest lesson I learned from the Blue Dynasty. When it was over and my bunkmates were breaking things and bawling on the porch of Bunk 12, I tried to bring myself to cry too, but for some reason I couldn’t. My heart hurt so much, I thought it might explode like an appendix. But other than that, I was completely numb. Even with the crushing weight of defeat pinning me down, I felt immune to the pain. I knew that no loss could ever equal the one I’d just experienced, and knowing that gave me a strange sense of comfort.
Until 2000, I had never lost Color War. The year before, my team won by what felt like 10,000 points. Defeat had never felt like an option. It was a completely foreign concept to me. But losing to the Dynasty, as disturbing and heart-wrenching as it was, taught me that the wins and the losses are not (and cannot) be what gauges the success of a team.
The greatest triumph of the White Warriors was the way the goals of the team completely outweighed any individual ones. What I remember more than anything was how united White was in our mission to take down the Dynasty. I had been on some great Color War teams in previous years, but none of us had ever been a part of something so important. For our staff members, the battle was as real as could be. We could smell the hatred in every speech they gave, every game they coached. And in no time, we began feeling the same way. We felt like we were fighting for the future of Avoda. The staff’s fight had become our own. Their cause was now ours. The hatred we all shared towards the Dynasty brought us closer together. And the way that contempt has lasted over the years only strengthens our bond as Warriors.
In the years since the Dynasty, I’ve come to view the Warriors experience as a life-changing one. Since I had already tasted the most bitter of defeats, I was never scared of losing again. The next summer, I was in Bunk 14 and was lucky enough to be a winning Color War and Desert War Captain. I don’t think I could have done all that without the events of the previous summer. What I’ve come to learn is that losing didn’t soften my heart. It hardened it. It didn’t weaken my resolve. It strengthened it. All that loss did was make the winning feel that much better. It put winning on a pedestal so high, I knew I would do anything to reach it. And even if I got knocked down again, I wasn’t falling any lower. I couldn’t get hurt any worse. I was right back where I started, more fired up than ever.
The Blue Dynasty shaped the sportsman that I am today. Uniting with the Warriors in our battle to overcome (alleged) roster-tampering, play-spying, ref-intimidating, and out-and-out villainous tactics was a self-affirming experience that taught me the value of integrity, teamwork, and pride. To this day, White Warriors still populate the Avoda staff, and we’re not hard to pick out. Any mention of the Dynasty is met with an enthusiastic “Fuck the Dynasty.” Any shout-out during a birthday speech or pow-wow with our campers elicits a smile even from the crustiest and tight-lipped counselors. We will always be bonded by our time as White Warriors. We stared evil dead in the eye, defied every obstacle, and almost pulled off the miracle of all miracles. And even if we didn’t get our Hollywood ending, the day was still ours. We will always have that week, that team, that Warrior pride.
And if we ever need to take a piss, that locker is never far away.