Although it doesn’t look like much now it’s is definitely in my top three. 

I don’t have many trophies that I really cherish from my athletic days. Sure, there’s a plaque or two that I received for being on the varsity and somewhere there’s a very nice one in honor of Bob Van Tine as the Senior Athlete of the Year. However, none of these, not even the medals I received in this sport itself, comes close to the importance of earning “Supercat” status and receiving my t-shirt and having my picture on the wall of fame. Maybe, just like in business or marketing, the importance comes in part just by being first.

I received my Supercat t-shirt as a sophomore and although I’d lettered in football in the fall this was my first visible reward and recognition. In order to become a Supercat you had to achieve an event-specific mark. To be honest I don’t recall what event I earned the t-shirt for to this day but I know 36 years later it still stands out in my mind as a big deal.

Our coach, Roger Mathiesen, set up the recognition program and let us know it was a big thing on at least a weekly basis. Prior to practice he gave us a pep talk/status report and recognizing guys who hit these marks was a part of it. He actually called the athlete out in front of everyone, said what they’d done to achieve their Supercat and made some sort of remark about how the athlete had progressed to hit this or what they’d done work-wise to make it there. As a first year highschooler this was a huge deal but as big as that was it paled in comparison to being on the wall of fame.

Coach Mathiesen’s office was no more than a smallish metal desk in the History teachers’ office near those classrooms. His was one of at least three or four desks in an open room but I can see it to this day. It sat back in the southeast corner of the room and above it on each wall were the pictures of the Supercats. After you received your Supercat you and the other recipients donned your t-shirt and individually had a snapshot taken. The snapshots weren’t much, just an individual picture taken out near the football practice field. The frames and presentation of the finished product weren’t much either, in fact if my memory is correct Coach Mathiesen didn’t even label them with your name or event when he hung them above his desk but they were there. They were visible.

You were a member of an elite group and you had been recognized as one of the best irrespective of your year in school. I know for a fact that when I, a lowly sophomore, had my picture taken I had it taken on the same afternoon as some seniors. That was big, dare I say huge for me. Just knowing that your teammates knew you were in this group and knowing that anyone coming into the History teachers’ room would see your picture really meant something. For a kid like me who was always trying to please and maybe a little starved for validation this was my first taste.

Track is sometimes a lonely sport (see Push in this section). I can’t speak intelligently for today but back in the early 80’s when Coach Mathiesen was building the program the crowds weren’t big (if there was one at all). Meets were really only attended by parents and a handful of students; possibly a girlfriend or two if they were loyal. Even write-ups in the newspaper were sparse and a picture, if there was one, was usually only of a standout performer. For all my pride as a new Supercat I knew I probably wasn’t going to have my picture in the paper. I knew my place and I was correct as the following years in high school bore out.

Even though I managed to snag (a favorite Mathiesen term) medals on a regular basis and quite a few of them, I wasn’t often a winner. I don’t recall hardly ever bringing home the Gold. Side note and props to my relay-mates: I was part of a relay team that notably still holds a school record in what I believe was the High/Low Shuttle relay. We earned it at the Dutch Zorn Relay meet in Gothenburg and I believe our mark still stands, partly because I don’t think they run this crazy relay any longer or the team doesn’t go to the meet but enough of that one shining moment. Nope, I knew even as a newbie sophomore that I probably didn’t have the wheels to win as a sprinter (if you know me now, don’t laugh, I really was fairly fast at one time) nor the leapers to be a long jumper. Coach could see that also so he made me a hurdler (a proposal I laughed at initially). Recognition wouldn’t come from outside the team but within it, among my teammates and peers even the faculty that saw my picture on the wall was important.

So without going down the rabbit hole of my psyche (because, who has the time or patience for that) suffice to say I hang on to my Supercats t-shirt with pride to this day. My son’s worn it and I’ve tried to explain the meaning of it although I’m not sure how successful I was nor how much he really understood. I know it’s a little silly and my wife tells me it’s silly but sometimes as an old guy I think I’ve earned being silly. I know I earned the shirt and the memory and sense of accomplishment. Those won’t be lost even when the thing eventually disintegrates to dust like me.

I hope you enjoyed this little tale. I find it interesting what we hold onto that has meaning to us. For me it’s always been the little, peripheral things. How about you? What do you hold onto that has meaning only to you?

I hope you liked this. I had a great time writing it. If you have a friend that you think might get a kick out of it, please share it with them. Icons are below. If you would like to receive an email on Saturdays with links to the past week’s posts it would be my pleasure to send it to you. Just click here to subscribe (it’s free). 

If you would like to read more just click this and you’ll be sent back to the home page.