Not everyone plays sports, and not everyone can relate to sports. Be it basketball, football, golf, what have you. Certainly not everyone enjoys debating numbers, rankings, statistics, and playoff seedings. Sometimes it’s hard to even get past the ridiculous 30-second ads, shoe deals, and the rampant commercialism holding millions of people hostage for a few hours in front of their TVs on any given Sunday, dying to be entertained. Does it even matter who wins and when, when we all have to go back to our lives when the final horn goes off? Probably not. It is, after all, just a game.
I have a poster, of Michael Jordan spreading his wings, hung up in my room. Arguably the greatest player the game has seen, his lore transcends through generations and cultures. Even though I’ve never watched him play a single game, I know the numbers, I know 72 and 10, the 6 rings, the 3peats, the tongue held out in flight, the fist pump, and the maniacal drive to crush the opposition. I know all of that, but to me, Michael was a player in a game.
We can’t relate to players in a game, multi-millionaires with big houses and fast cars, with athleticism we can’t even imagine trapped in our own bodies, and with a day job that is, quite frankly, cutting them cheques to play a game.
But we can relate to a narrative.
We don’t know, or think, but we feel, when we are swallowed whole into a storyline unfolding in realtime. A storyline that many of us have been a part of from teenage to adulthood. We cherish these last few moments disproportionately more, even if they are not as glorious. Somehow having the end in sight makes everything weigh a little bit more in our hearts. We know what that feels like. The last farewell is not one of fierce competition, but of mutual appreciation.
We can relate to futility, of running up and down and up again, feeling like the world is against you. Worse, the feeling that maybe today won’t make a difference to neither the winner nor the loser. Beyond the futility, we can relate to sadness, of the imminent departure of someone you know, or even someone you felt like you know.
But we can also relate to thumping our chest for coming in clutch time after time, maybe on our own day jobs. I haven’t been to Phoenix, I heard it gets hot there. And as life will have it, we can relate to shame and horror, for being on the wrong side of history. I am from Toronto, after all.
We can relate to pride and utter confidence, for when we are in our elements, we are appreciated for our momentarily extraordinary feats of aptitude, even if it is a minuscule one in the bigger picture. On the flip side, we can relate to pain and bitterness of being tossed aside, when we’re down, for the next new thing around.
We can relate to feeling pure, childish foolishness, moments after being so bewildered by what’s happening in front of our eyes that we expect the screen to scream back in disbelief with us. Simultaneously, somehow, we can relate to defiance, and to refusal to being quietly sent off into obscurity, from yesterday’s dominance to a page in tomorrow’s obituary. We can relate to ending our stories on our own terms, because it’s our stories.
And when things slow down, we can relate to having friends and family being there for us, through the ups and downs, through the 9 to 5, or from sunrise till sundown. Our individual glory would not have been possible if not for every single one of our companions on this journey. Although, some of them might have been liabilities more than opportunities, but falling down a ditch together makes for good friends and better stories.
We can relate to ambition, obsession, and hard work; and with it, blood, sweat, and sweet victory. Maybe we can’t relate to legacies but we can relate to forever trying to create our own, of perhaps what will be become decades of excellence in a history book full of colorful chapters, decorated accomplishments, and inevitable regrets.
We can relate to excitement and exhilaration seemingly coming out of nowhere, suspending, for just a moment, our belief that none of this matters.
Maybe it doesn’t. But when it’s all over, we can relate to relishing in the moment and the feeling of peace that washes over us, knowing that today’s story will end and tomorrow’s will come. Maybe “81” has passed but “73 and 9” is the moment we can live for right now.
We can feel all of that, but at the end of the day, maybe it is just a game.
Thank you, for taking the world by its throat, when it mattered a lot and when it didn’t. Thank you, for creating storylines after storylines that we can relate to while we walk through ours, even if our worlds couldn’t be farther apart. And finally, thank you, for playing your game, and in the process, inspiring us to play ours.