Monday, May 11, 2015 – Atlantic 10 Tournament / Amherst, Massachusetts
I remember studying Aristotle’s concept of synergy in my Philosophical Ethics class during my sophomore year. From a desk in Fordham’s hallowed Keating Hall, I learned about this two thousand year old idea stating that the whole of something is greater than the sum of its parts. A model following the notion that when individual figures are combined within an arithmetic operation, the figure that follows the equal sign is always superior in value than the ones that precede it. Maybe Aristotle was a sportsman back in his day, because his profound thoughts reflect the ultimate metaphor for teamwork, which was on display for us this past week in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
Following a regular season that saw our team frequently competing as individual figures rather than a cohesive whole, there were enough ups and downs to make even roller coaster enthusiasts queasy. But, we Rams finally discovered the synergy that had been lacking for many of the previous fifty games, and fortunately, it was found in the nick of time.
Just a handful of weeks ago, however, our erratic play had caused us to question whether or not we would even qualify for the conference tournament. We began to hear the whispers of outsiders and naysayers, and had intermittently fallen into the trap of doubting our collective ability to capture a third straight championship. But, similar to how the trees seem barren one day and in full bloom the next, something suddenly and inexplicably began to blossom for us just recently between the white lines.
Entering the conference tournament as the third seed, we cruised through the six-team bracket during our stay in Amherst, Massachusetts. Like a well-oiled machine, we won four-straight games, including victories over second-seeded St. Louis and top-seeded Dayton in the championship game, even though both teams had combined to beat us four times during the regular season. Against the odds and predictions, we became the first three-seed in our conference’s history to hoist the trophy on championship Saturday.
On paper, though, we weren’t supposed to win the tournament this year. SLU had walked-off on us twice during our first conference series of the season in March in devastating, come-from-behind fashion, and Dayton had mercied us on our home field during Easter weekend. Even though we had displayed dominance against every other team in the conference, there was such a great disparity that existed between the top three squads in the Atlantic 10 and the rest of the teams this year. Thus, despite our impressive 17-5 conference record, we were still viewed as the third best team in the A10. On paper, that is.
But, like we had been reminding ourselves since the last time we played and lost to SLU and Dayton, championships aren’t won in the chilly days of March and April; they are won in the heat of May. And, no matter how bumpy the ride may have felt earlier this season, the synergy that ensued last week was certainly worth the wait.
That’s the great thing about sports, though. No matter what the prognosticators predict, the critics critique, or the numbers suggest, the one ineffable characteristic about competition is its human element. And with that, comes a whole slew of possibilities. Like the synergy that a team can kick into high-gear at the most opportune of times, and go from performing as individuals to competing as a unified whole that is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The most beautiful of sights on a softball diamond, if you ask me.
So, fresh off the heels of our seemingly improbable Atlantic 10 championship, here’s to hoping that our synergy persists in the upcoming NCAA Regional at James Madison University, even if for just a few more days.