I was a fish out of water. In over my head. Tossed into the deep end. (Feel free to insert your own favorite water-based cliché here). I was sitting in the bleachers at the Mission Viejo Aquatic Center, taking in the USA Diving National Championship Prelims, and I was the only uninformed member of the “crowd”.
Every 30 seconds or so, in front of me a young male or female would bound off of a springboard, contort themselves in mid-air and somehow (most of the time) straighten themselves out for a hands-first entry into the water. This would be followed by a mysterious authoritative voice emanating from…well, from somewhere I couldn’t see, reading off a set of five scores. This had been going on continuously for almost 90 minutes now.
There’s something about a Team USA competition that always makes me think that the event staff would be startled to come across someone onsite who is not: (a) an athlete taking part in the competition; (b) a friend or family member of a competitor; or (c) a member of the facility management staff. These dedicated people work so hard to create an environment in which their athletes can shine – yet the thought that others may enjoy watching them shine appears never to occur to them.
It was a day whose name ended in “y”, so traffic was heavy in SoCal – thus causing me to run a few minutes late for the start of the USA Diving National Preliminaries. So I can’t say this with absolute certainty, but based on the sub-low-key (no-key?) nature of the event that I came to witness, I probably didn’t miss much in the way of opening ceremony pomp and circumstance. In fact, within a few minutes of taking a bleacher seat in the Mission Viejo Aquatic Complex, I started to wonder if I had come to the right place.