Tuesday, April 05, 2005

My body hates me. My back seized up. My legs seized up. There a cut on the back of my nearly-immobile neck. But I can't get this damn smile off of my face.

It's hard to spend time being something bigger and greater than you're used to and then walk away one day without looking back. It's even harder to come back for a few days and taste it again. I got out of town and rejoined my old teammates and competitors because I knew it could easily mean big scholarship money. It didn't matter how poorly I did. But then the unthinkable happened. I was doing well. Real well. Almost too well. I started kicking some ass and surprising a lot more people than myself. And it just kept happening. I got caught up in the moment, my brain turned off and pure primeval instinct took over. My body didn't act, it just reacted.

It's a strange feeling when little kids look up to you. You can feel their gaze when you walk by. They stare transfixed but a bit awestruck to speak. They see a dream in their heads of what they could be. It's even stranger when it's grown men. Only they aren't terrified to talk to you. They want to shake your hand, pat you on the back, ask you a million questions. These men don't have the same dream. They want some of whatever you've got that makes you so special. They want to be around it and touch it and understand it and realizes that really, I'm not any different than the rest of them.

Athletes are self-centered bastards. Most of them have to be. That's the way they tend to survive and succeed. You have to treat your body like it's your best asset. And you need the cockiness to have the confidence to succeed. But something strange happens when you get to a certain level. I've seen it happen to plenty. One minute it's all about yourself. But when your name gets out there it becomes bigger than one person. Suddenly that one athlete represents all his family and his friends and his doctors and his neighborhood. Anyone who he has ever shaken hands with. He becomes a source of hope and light. He'll get better. The whole city will him and root for him and cheer for him.

Maybe one day his entire Nation will wave their flags, cheer his name and photographers will line up to take his picture at a victory parade. It hasn't happened to me but I've seen it. I've watched the most self-centered bastards become the beacon of hope for millions. And I laugh at what a crazy fucked up world we've built for ourselves.


Blogger eric said...

after playing basketball this week ... seeing the stains on my shirt from my bloody nose ... the sharp pain of a deep bruise to my cheek ...

puts a smile on face.

you go into work the next morning, and it's reminiscent of "fight club" -- "the volume is turned down on everything."


11:17 PM  

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