by Mitch Lee
I purposely waited to write my column this week until after the Syracuse men’s and women’s basketball games were done and won.
I had a different column in mind before I witnessed the two improbable wins; as a Syracuse alumni I was on the edge of my seat during the games.
Over the years I have heard a lot of folks say, “It is just a game.”
The statement alone discredits the amount of preparation and time student athletes spend honing their craft.
It begs the listener to just block out that sensation a player has when all the stars line up and the perfections of the moments are falling into place.
I had so many opportunities afforded to me as a student athlete at the Town of Webb School.
I was able to play double varsity sports in each season and compete at a level against other student athletes who also did not think “it was just a game.”
The catharsis of the moment when your entire focus is in that present moment to use every bit of your skills and cunning to do so much more than play.
That moment when all other things that make you weak, scared, or worthless are blotted out by the energy of competition.
It certainly is not about winning the game that makes student athletes play.
It is about trying to push your efforts to a new level and get your mind into what is typically referred to as “the zone” by sports journalists.
The game takes you to a place where the world can’t enter in with its hate, ambitions, deceit, hunger, and empty promises.
The game itself is a place where you can have a world of your own.
I spent many moments in high school and college surrounded by friends who entered into that world with me.
I loved those moments when each individual player had that focus on the field or on the court at the same moment as I.
Everyone in the moment enjoying that game. No need to worry about the score or the fans, the weather or the struggle of an algebra test.
We were just playing a game, just a game…in the moment together, growing and buoyant in our play.
As an avid sports fan I rarely see those moments unfold as I watch matches and games.
In most instances the teams who bring the most talent and make fewer mistakes are the winners.
But every so often there is “that game” and it’s the one we remember watching.
That game where the players find themselves inside their own minds, present, focused and perfect.
If you were a player, as I was, a moment like that was the best of your life.
Those who have never experienced the moment of wholeness will say to you, “it is just a game.”
Mitch Lee, Adirondack native & storyteller,
lives at Inlet. firstname.lastname@example.org