“We’re Number 1!”

I got up early this morning and couldn’t wait until after the Pats game. But there shouldn’t be too much surprise as to who I gave the top spot to. Sorry, Fish. It’s not the video. Put it online and it might get a shout-out, though. Here’s #1…

1) O Captain! My Captain!
First, a personal commentary: Being a Color War Captain is really, really hard and not everyone can do it. Trust me on this. Anyway, as I was saying…

There is perhaps no greater honor at Camp Avoda than to be picked as a Color War Captain. It’s a testament to the high standing and esteem you hold amongst your bunkmates, the staff and the rest of camp. To be chosen is to be passed the torch and told: “This is your time. You are the man.” This year’s Bunk 14 presented a slew of potential captains — great athletes, model campers, huge personalities and born leaders. The 14 counselors were both blessed and burdened with the task of selecting the two most deserving candidates, and in Sam Watman and Marc Gleason, they certainly succeeded. Marc and Sam represent the typical scheme of opposing captains: The Athlete (Gleason) and The Leader (Watman). But it would be unfair to typecast either of them when they each bring so much more to the table.

Marc Gleason has seemed destined to be a captain since he first stepped foot on Avoda soil in 2003. He remains one of the most dominant athletes camp has ever seen. In past years, his overwhelming size and skill demanded numerous top picks (including the elusive “Quad”) just to offset his multiple talents. His ability to control games with his speed, intelligence, and coordination made him an indispensable part of every team he ever played on at camp. This summer, he stood out as not only a gifted athlete but a leader as well. His hard work and desire pushed Senior Hoops to new heights, and his dominant performance in the Avoda Tournament solidified his claim as a Color War Captain.

Sam Watman, on the other hand, was a late bloomer of sorts. Always a solid athlete but not an immediate superstar, Sam broke out as a junior, proving himself a powerful force on and off the field. His brute strength and quickness helped him gain steam as an impactful athlete, but his soft-spoken demeanor and intensity are what propelled him to great heights as a senior. As the undisputed leader of Bunk 14, Sam entered this summer with high expectations, which he more than exceeded. He commanded every huddle he entered. When he spoke, everyone in earshot stopped what they were doing, and that control of the room is what earned him the coveted Leadership Trophy.

Watman and Gleason’s greatest accomplishment as captains was shedding their tough guy exteriors and acting as true role models throughout Color War. It was hard to find a freshman or sophomore event at which they didn’t make an appearance. Anytime I saw them, they were giving their players whatever they needed — whether it was calming them down, psyching them up, pushing them to play harder, or warning them to dial it back — and this ability to connect with younger campers is what defined them as great captains. Most importantly, they never tried to be anyone but themselves. To borrow a phrase, they danced with what brung ‘em.

I couldn’t have been prouder of Sam and Marc this summer. They both exemplified what it means to be a leader at Avoda. From their intense Path walk to their opening speeches to their pre-game team stretches to their on-field conduct, they never lost focus and never stopped trying to push their respective teams. Neither will be defined by the way they played this week, though they were both awesome. The measure of a great captain is the lengths to which his players will go to win for him and his bunkmates. If it’s anything less than 100%, the captain hasn’t done his job. My first two Color War Captains, Josh Schneider and Greg Lazaroff, had me eating out of their hands by Day 2. I would have done anything to win for them. I saw the same fire in kids this year — playing balls out for their 14ers, willing to risk it all to watch them swim.

That’s how I’ll always remember this year’s Color War: a remarkable Bunk 14, backed up by a devoted supporting cast, killing themselves for seven days for a chance to take a late-night dip in Lake Tispaquin. In the months and years to come, we’ll continue to talk about Shay Wenglin’s dropkick, Ben Shale’s corner kick, Fogel, Watman, and Robbie Katz’s amazing Dead Zone flag, Gleason’s electrifying walk-off penalty rush, Bamel and A.J.’s dueling guitars at Songfest, the return of Senior Bunk-O Hitting, the last-minute elimination of Freshman Hugging, and Josh Katz’s now-infamous rock envelope.

But what I’ll never forget is the minute right after it broke — before anyone knew their teams, before friends were split up, before the dirty tactics, the cheap shots, the foul language, the bloody noses, the crying sophomores, the shouting matches, and the angry tirades — when we were all together one last time to celebrate the start of the best week of the year. In that moment, our whole lives were ahead of us. No one knew what the next few days would bring; we just knew it would be special and that it could only happen at Avoda. That’s what I’ll always remember.

And I might have a hard time forgetting that Senior Volleyball thing, too. But that’s a whole other issue.

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3 Responses to “We’re Number 1!”

  1. Moose says:

    Either of the captains lead their teams in the Macarena during Organization?

  2. Pingback: 2010 in review | The Summer of Zen

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