The last game of my high school lacrosse career, the prolific senior day when every senior is supposed to get a chance to showcase their skills, I didn’t step foot on the field.
I love sports. I loved them as a kid growing up and I love them now. I’ve written odes to sports, sang songs about sports, played just about every sport no matter how poorly I did it, and enjoyed every moment.
Lacrosse wasn’t my first love. It wasn’t even my second or third love. It was a sport I ended up playing more out of stubbornness and overconfidence than anything else. My first love was baseball. From the time my father cradled me in the stands at an Oakland A’s game, I was smitten. I loved the arc of the ball, the spin and curve of the laces, the way it felt in my hand. I loved the smell of leather, the slow careful tick of numbers, the way failure was embraced. I loved the hot summer days, the sound of a bat making contact, the crunch of the grass beneath my cleats. I loved the poetry, the language, the lyricism of the announcers. I loved the way a picture was painted on the radio, the steady march of heroes through history, the way baseball, unlike any other sport, was affected by major events like Sandy Koufax on Yom Kippur and Ted Williams during World War II.
In little league, I was a proud all-star catcher one season and snubbed as an all-star another because my coach didn’t want kids to argue about who deserved to go. I was proud when my teammates argued for my inclusion despite that. I refused metal bats as impure, carrying a heavy wooden bat with me instead. I learned how to throw and grip different pitches despite not being a pitcher and my coach telling me I’d mess up my arm. In middle school, I was the second best power hitter on the team. I could pitch scoreless innings and throw unwavering knuckleballs. I broke and fixed my backyard pitch-back multiple time, and broke and paid for windows multiple times too. By the time my freshman year of high school happened, I wanted nothing more than to be out on a diamond where I could run and throw and daydream hazy summer afternoons away.
Over the span of our relationship, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs. The last stretch has left us so discombobulated, I simply don’t think we can keep doing this. But it’s not your fault. I know it’s not your fault. Theo, our buddy who hooked us up in the first place, has been telling everyone it’s not your fault. If anything, I think this decision is best for both of us.
When we first got together, I was in a vulnerable spot. I had just gotten out of a volatile relationship with this pretty Little thing. We had been hot and cold for a couple of years, and the potential of our pairing was finally on the brink and coming out in ways I had always hoped it would. I know we scored more that last summer together than I could have hoped for.
One night in October, while playing with my little Pedro, things just started to feel awkward. Little Pedro was clearly tired, but after urging from my inexperienced significant other, we kept working him. Needless to say, the outcome wasn’t pretty and I was left sore. For me, it was the last straw.
Nick Mangold of the New York Jets sports pink shoes for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Photo by Ed Yourdon.
Every Sunday for the last few weeks, football fans have been assaulted by a plethora of pink. Shoes, arm bands, gloves, and other accessories, not to mention dozens of shirts, hats and flags in the stands, make it completely clear that it is, once again, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Each sport seems to have it’s glut of pink gear for breast cancer awareness. Major League Baseball has events on Mother’s Day and during the All-Star break. Marshall University sold pink jerseys in April. Shorter University had a week in February dedicated to the cause (I wasn’t even aware baseball went that early). Even a high school flag football team wore pink. Sports everywhere seem to be getting in on the act.
As much as this may be a good cause, all this pomp and regalia have caused some serious disillusionment in me, and I’m not alone.
One of my friends has commented on multiple occasions that Breast Cancer Awareness Month and all the related fanfare are concerned with early detection and treatment. Nowhere do you hear anyone mention the causes of breast cancer or anything dealing with preventing it before it crops up. Risk factors, screenings, and detection are trumpeted and the studies searching for causes and cures remain largely hidden or unmentioned.
“Look, either he’s rehabilitated, or, as Bill Simmons said, he’s pulling one of the greatest snow jobs of all time.”
“You’re walking a fine line there,” he said through clenched teeth. He kept his eyes forward, not deigning to look at me as he tensed with distaste.
Politics and religion have nothing on Michael Vick. One mention of his name brings opinions from everyone I know, whether they lean toward forgiveness of damnation.
Landon Donovan celebrates his game winning goal against Algeria.
Our arrival meant that there were six of us sliding into our seats, waves of anxiety and excitement shivering down our spines. It was almost a matter of pride arriving when the bistro was empty save for a smattering of staff and a handful of bleary-eyed fans huddling at the bar.
“Good work, boys,” the hostess said with a smirk. “You made it just in time.”
Perfectly on cue, the ball leapt from the pitch and the game was on.
The crowd slowly grew, tables sliding and chairs twirling to accommodate the late-comers. Passers-by with a moment to spare appeared in doorways and at windows, craning their necks and succumbing to the tension.
We watched, rapt, our eyes straining and hearts pounding. Every glance away, every sip and bite, was nervously timed, fear mounting that the moment everyone awaited with hope and trepidation would slip past unseen.
We waited, idle conversation flecked with nervous laughter. Children and parents cupped their glasses, knuckles white and brows furrowed. Some prayed, all yearned, our collective desire emitting into the ether in waves, as if it could cross the vast physical distance and bring us the outcome we desired.
Somewhere else, others were doing the same, hoping for an opposing end.
With the clock ticking away, the opportunity waning, it happened.
We clamored. We cheered. We cried. Hands slapped in a cacophonous roar, the potential becoming kinetic so fast that we virtually collapsed, our reserves emptied.
As the final whistle blew, we numbered perhaps fifty, our faces smiling, relieved.
For a moment, we were united. Not just the fifty of us together there, but the tens of thousands of us tucked into every corner of every bar, huddled around crackling radios and TVs, and entrenched in the stands a hemisphere away.
This was our hour.
This was the World Cup.