Where Dreams Go to Die (Kind of)

Written by Dietrich Balsbaugh

“Remember, kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong.”

—The Babe, The Sandlot

I saw it coming this time. A left-end quarterback sneak coming fast around the corner. By the time the ball was snapped, I was already moving to the gap forming between our linemen. The quarterback looked at me with surprise as I came bearing down on him, so he turned to cut the corner to the open field ahead. As we sprinted toward the sideline, I knew it was going to be close. He finally saw his opening and began to cut up the field just inches in front of me. I dove with arms fully extended toward the two yellow flags trailing behind his belt.

For a moment, the world slowed as I hovered above the field of Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium. My fingers closed over the familiar feeling of empty air. Then I crashed to the turf, receiving only a faceful of rubber pellets for my effort. By the time I looked up, the rest of the opposing team was in the end zone celebrating their latest touchdown, this one pushing the score to 60-0. I got up and walked yet again to the other side of the field to receive the kickoff. Welcome to Hillsdale College Intramural Sports Leagues, the place where high-school dreams come to die.

At least, that’s what I thought as the eventual champions of the flag football season steamrolled us to a 67-0 victory. Our team of young freshmen from my hall in Simpson Residence had to do some rethinking after that game. Our chosen team name of “Shark Bait” now seemed all too true, so we naturally decided to embrace that identity to its fullest potential.

From then on, we vowed that every single snap we played would be a trick play. For the rest of the season, nobody had a clue what our game strategy was, and I mean nobody, not even ourselves. Our plays ranged from hidden ball tricks to wrong ball tricks, to trying whatever this is. It goes without saying that we finished with a record of 1 win and 11 losses—but a whole lot of fun. As it turns out, Hillsdale’s IM sports offer a great opportunity to compete, make friends, and ultimately participate in the delightful atmosphere that running around after a ball together creates. Don’t even mention the playoffs to us though.

The IM leagues offer a wide variety of sports for any variety of skill levels. Whether it is soccer, flag football, basketball, volleyball, or even dodgeball, you will be sure to find friends who are willing to take the fields with you and spend some quality time competing. With leagues for both men and women, the competition is always good, or at least entertaining. Often teams will try to come up with the most creative team names, or develop the most visually creative uniforms to make the game more interesting. For example, I’ve been on one football team named “Blubbery Blueberries” and a volleyball team named “Liquid Modernity,” complete with our own t-shirts.

Whatever the team, uniform, or sport, the season always manages to bring students together into an active lifestyle of sports with friends. The leagues are a little reminder of life beyond the high-school sports world, where one can still play basketball or football without the pressure, and with a little bit more enjoyment that comes with rallying a team to say, “Let’s do this, guys!” Hillsdale’s IM leagues help bring the student body closer together through good, old-fashioned, friendly competition, and maybe a little bit of chaos too.

Dietrich BalsbaughDietrich Balsbaugh, ’20, studies English and mathematics. He loves dancing of any kind and playing in any sort of water, particularly if it involves skipping rocks. If you see him on campus, he’s usually talking about fractals, writing, or tossing a frisbee. He doesn’t mind, so be sure to stop and ask him what he’s thinking about.

Published in May 2020