As our long Olympic journey closes, let’s end on a positive note: the US men’s volleyball won the gold medal on Sunday by beating the heavily-favored Brazilians 3-1. Of course, the real story of the match had little to do with bumps, sets and spikes.
The story was US coach Hugh McCutcheon. As most people know by now, his father-in-law was killed and his mother-in-law was seriously injured by a knife-wielding nut job the day of the Opening Ceremonies. He missed the first three games of the tournament, but returned to his team at the urging of his wife after his mother-in-law was well enough to be moved to a US hospital.
After almost two weeks of having to deal with the biggest professional moment of his coaching career while also experiencing one of the biggest personal tragedies of his personal life, McCutcheon finally was able to let his guard down after his team put the finishing touches on the match. He walked away from the court for an understandable minute to himself:
“It all was starting to sink in,” he said. “I had to take a step out and collect my thoughts and collect my emotions and come back out. It’s a very meaningful moment.”
It’s a bizarre form of kismet: the moment that was the dark cloud over the Opening Ceremonies becomes the feel-good moment of the last day of competition. In an Olympics filled with allegations of deception and illusions, sometimes it takes something so raw and emotional to separate what’s real from what isn’t.