The first time my assistant coach, Patty Ross, told me she was planning on driving through the night from Vermont to the NBC studios in New York City so that she might catch an early morning concert of Bruce Springsteen on The Today Show, my reaction was simple, â€œReally? You can’t be serious. â€ Patty’s sheer fanaticism for Springsteen rivals her love of skiing. Anyone who knows the former Olympian knows that you don’t get between Patty Ross and something she loves. â€œWe’re going to see Bruce. We’re going to get on TV.â€ Patty said it without cockiness, just certainty as she and Middlebury running coach Nicole Wilkerson set off to draw up their signs: â€œMiddlebury, Vermont Loves Bruce Sringsteen! Come pick Apples!â€ and â€œSorry Erin (Quinn – Middlebury Athletic Director). We Thought our Meeting Was With The Boss!â€
The two trundled off with their floppy cardboard. They giggled as they loaded the car and headed towards the Big Apple. No way I thought. They might get a nose-bleed shot at Bruce, but it will be far away and there is no chance they’re going to get on TV. Can’t happen. I smiled, smug but silent with my nay-saying. The next morning I woke up and turned on the TV. There was Matt Lauer introducing Bruce Springsteen. There was the Boss himself, looking a bit older but still born to run and rocking out at 8:00AM eastern standard time. And behind Matt Lauer there were Patty and Nicole, holding their signs within spitting distance of the New Jersey rock star.
They could be clearly seen pressed against the orange TODAY security banner, celebrating their victory in snatching such great seats. What ran through my head was a saying my dad likes to use: â€œvictory only goes to the bold.â€ Patty and Nicole were bold, and victory, no matter what the competition, is still victory. From a pickup game of soccer to winning a ski race to winning a spot with Bruce Springsteen to winning a gold medal, victory starts with being certain in the face of nay-sayers. (Even silent ones can weigh you down.) US Cross country skiing is filled with can’t: American’s can’t compete with Europeans. Our Junior’s can’t be as tough as the rest of the world. Folks can’t ski in college and develop along the way. You can’t drive five hours and get on The Today Show and get free front row seats a Bruce Springsteen concert. Patty laughed upon her return when I told her I didn’t think she’d pull off the Bruce project. â€œIt was definitely the same kind feeling as when you’re about to win a race. I knew we’d see him. I knew we’d get on.â€
Andrew Gardner is the Head Nordic Coach for Middlebury College. For more pics of Patty’s Springsteen project, check out www.middleburyskiing.org.