“Love the game. Love the game for everything it can teach you about yourself…Love the game for the challenge of working harder than you ever have at something and then harder than that…Love the game so much that you will pass on your love of the game to another athlete who has seen your dedication, your work, your challenges, your triumphs… and then that athlete will, because of you, love the game.”
Most people fall in love once, twice if they’re lucky. Hopefully I’ll be lucky, since I fell in love even before I entered adolescence. I fell in love the first time I touched a softball. The first time I ran my fingers over the bulging red seams. I was only eight years old. Most eight year olds aren’t even in like yet. So how on earth could I have been in love? I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but fortunately it did. The same feelings teenage girls go through the first time they fall in love, I felt. Chills ran down my spine, my heart raced, beads of sweat dripped down my face. I was head-over-heels in love with what most people would simply classify as a game.
For most people, sports provide a method of entertainment – a way to relieve stress after a long day’s work. But for a few, elite (I like to think of myself as elite), individuals, sports are more than entertainment. They’re more than a game. They are everything. Okay so maybe they’re not everything, you still need food, and water, and maybe some friends, but other than that, sports are the way to go. And that’s why people fall in love. There’s something about sports, this indescribable feeling you get when you step on the court, the field, or the track that you never want to let go of. Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s not. I think it is, so we’re gonna go with that.
Some people think you can’t love something that doesn’t love you back, and to those people, there’s no way sports can love you back. Those people obviously haven’t been there when you step onto a softball diamond at 6 A.M. when the sun is barely over the horizon, dew is on the grass, and there’s a stillness in the air that is more than perfect. They haven’t been there when you’re running gut-shot 300s, when you’re heart is in your throat and the lunch you just ate is somewhere between your mouth and the nearest trashcan. They haven’t been there in the fourth quarter with ten seconds left, you’re down one and there’s pain in your calves that keep pinching and pinching and pinching your muscles but still you make that last second shot and pure elation fills your spirit and the pain in your body goes away. Because if they were there, they would know that sports can love you the way no person can. People break your heart, they rip it out, stomp on it and tear it to pieces; sports never will. Losing may sting, but it won’t break your heart. Because the next day, you’ll be back on the field, in the gym, or on the track, ready to work your butt of to make sure that feeling never, ever comes back.
I believe sports can love you. The way no person ever will. They will never leave, never lie, never let go of your love. If you love them, they will undoubtedly love you back ten times more. And even though they love you, they still let you get lucky and fall in love all over again.
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