Saturday, July 04, 2009

Medal in hand

Jim Clancy reminds us of the 1978 loss and tells us that “this feels completely different.” Then, VM lost by 10 points, and Jim was filled with “what ifs” and “if only’s.” Here, there’s no regret, no thinking we could have done something more. He is overflowing with pride at our accomplishment.

In fact, he says, he talked with Jim Henry, director of the Ambassadors, after their performance but before the results were announced. “I just want to let you know,” he told him, “that if you guys beat the VM tonight, you beat us at the top of our game.”

No one likes to lose, but if you do lose, you’d hope it was when you did your best, not when you make mistakes and beat yourself. We certainly did our best today. It helps to take the sting off to learn that the scores were everything we were aiming for.

And who knows, if the Ambassadors performed closer to the VM, with more of a side-by-side comparison, maybe the scores would be different. Maybe not. It doesn’t really help to speculate, since it is what it is.

And speaking of the Ambassadors, Show Vice President Mike Johnson steps forward with a story. After the results are announced, the winning choruses send a representative backstage to pick up their medals. For us, that’s Mike, and he went back and got all 142 silver medals for the VM.

When he turned around, there were two men from the Ambassadors, still in their show outfits, standing about ten feet away. Mike noticed that they were frozen like deer in the headlights staring at him. Neither was smiling.

Mike took the initiative to approach them with his hand out and gave them a hearty “Congratulations.” They mumbled “thank you” – and still didn’t smile. Mike asked them what the matter was – shouldn’t they be happier?

“You don’t understand,” one of them replied. “This is bittersweet for us.”

“Bittersweet?” Mike asked – and here he begins to choke up as he relates the story to us – “You just won the competition. What’s bittersweet about it?”

“Oh, we wanted to win,” the other Ambassador shares. “It’s just that… the Vocal Majority are our idols. We wanted to win, but we didn’t want to beat you.

With that Mike reached out and hugged them, and finally the guys are able to smile. What class. What a great brotherhood this Society is.

And with a few more words, we are dismissed until 10 a.m. tomorrow, when we have our rehearsal for the Harmony Foundation show.

Um, wait. Do we get our medals, or don’t we?

At first, Phil McShan just dismissively says, “Eh, we’ll hand them out tomorrow.”

It’s almost funny. This chorus is so geared for gold that passing out silver medals is almost blown off, or handled as an afterthought.

It’s late, but the decision is made to do this the right way. The rookies are called down first – 35 of us on the risers who have never competed with the VM on the International stage before – and we’re each handed a plastic box with our silver medal inside as the other VM guys and our family members applaud. “And you’re still rookies!” someone shouts from the risers. Thanks, we know, we know.

The medal’s pretty hefty and nice – a metal rectangle with the words “International 2nd Place Chorus” in silver on a red enamel background, from which dangles a round silver disk minted with the Barbershop Harmony Society logo. I like it. It’s just not quite the color scheme I was hoping for.

In turn, the VM members with one gold medal are called down to get their silver, then those with two golds, three, and so on, until at last we honor Jim Clancy, Mickey Bonesio, and several others still going strong on the risers who have every gold medal the VM has won since 1975.

Jim Clancy notes that this is actually their first physical silver medal, since back in 1978, when the VM last placed second, medals were only handed out for first place.

Okay, with that we’re finally done. Becky, the boys and I head upstairs and hit the sack. The day’s been long and exhausting enough that, even with the lingering heartache from our loss, I fall asleep quickly.

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