24 February 2012 • Off-campus Event • By Seminarian Harrison Russin • Photos by Mary Roth
For a number of years now, St. Tikhon's Seminary and St. Vladimir's Seminary have squared off in a display of athletic prowess on the basketball court: the
"STOTS" vs "SVOTS" competition. The roots of our antagonistic rivalry are deep—possibly stemming from the '70s and '80s, from what I hear. At some point the competition had faded away, but since Fr. Chad Hatfield's arrival as the Chancellor of St. Vladimir's, our annual game has been resurrected.
We ("We" meaning SVOTS) lost this year, 66–57, but the score is not totally indicative of our dedication and preparation. At St. Vladimir's Seminary, we do not have a basketball court on campus; in fact, we currently have no physical fitness facilities on campus. We practice wherever we can find a hoop, and now the neighborhood kids of Crestwood know us by name. When it's dark, we head over to the nearby town of Tuckahoe and play under a court with lights. If it's an extremely busy day, in between classes we shoot around on the driveway hoop behind our Dean's house. If it's cold, we bundle up; raining, we don waterproof clothes (or, more likely, cancel practice). Still, at St. Vladimir's, every student leads a diligently busy life, and basketball is seldom the focus of our attention.
Our team is made up of former high school stars, people who were cut from their high school teams, and players who haven't played since seventh-grade junior league. Further, our team includes members from the whole St. Vladimir's community. Elvis Baez, a Bronx native and employee of our bookstore, loves to come out and play. Adam Rivera, the son of our maintenance facility director, takes a break from his high school studies to shoot around with us. Felix Behr, the son of Dean Fr. John Behr, adds his lanky skill and quasi-British humor to our practices. Our team is composed of M.Div. and M.A. students, Indian Orthodox and Russian Orthodox, convert and cradle, west coast and east coast.
Although St. Vladimir's is a community centered around living and studying the Christian life, we do not always have mutually common opportunities to pursue this life. In classes, the work is often individually executed. Because we have Oriental and Eastern Orthodox on campus, we don't all worship in the same chapel. Single students eat together in the refectory and married students usually eat meals with their families. But the annual basketball rivalry with our "Sister Seminary" gives us a common focus, a goal that brings us all together.
Upon reflection, after playing on the team for two years, I also am making more sense of St. Paul's metaphors for the Christian life as athletic struggle: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Cor 9:24). Struggling to receive the prize is the yearly goal of our basketball team, a goal which enhances our view of Christian life. And even though we lost this year, we are reminded of the ultimate victory of God: his strength is perfected in defeat. Every loss, every win, and every moment spent training—individually and as a team—is ultimately an icon of our salvation.