Sunday, January 20, 2008

It started with a basketball game.

So, I'm known as a pretty nostalgic, emotionally-driven person (haha, my friends are saying, no, really?) I'm probably a writer because of that, and therefore you get to witness one of my continuously infrequent musings at 12:39 AM on a January Sunday morning, almost 6 years after I began this blog because I thought the idea of putting my words out into cyberspace was so super cool. It still is, but now instead of sharing my day-to-day life, I often post whenever I have an epiphany or a frustration or an opinion that I want to get out into the world without anyone knowing-- just send it out there, somehow it's known, I don't have to do anything further about it. But tonight (er, this morning?) it's not so much an annoyance or frustration or belief, and if it's an epiphany, it's one I've had many times over that I'm thankful to continue to have. No, even that doesn't describe it best. I guess it's gratefulness/appreciation/filled-upness... yeah, that's best. My cup overflows, the psalmist says, and so Claire says. And I'm not doing it to get it out there and leave it-- every day it's active, it's acknowledged. Every day it's different.
Basically, it started with a basketball game.
Okay, that's not exactly true, and not as superficial as it may sound. It didn't start with a basketball game, it started with a college visit in February '06-- the right one, as they say, the feeling, the warm fuzzies, whatever you want to call it (I didn't believe much in those things re: college until I set foot on this campus). A month later I found myself physically unable to press the button to view my cyber-college fate, and five months after that I miraculously found myself standing outside my new dorm sweating in the Southern sun as my parents walked back toward the car and the drive home without me. That's the long story short. And the long story isn't short, because it's continued every day for the past seventeen months, and the insane thing is, it won't ever stop.
Somewhere in there, it began to start with a basketball game.
I guess it could have been the first one ever, December 1, as we began to gear up for Christmas and exams... the end of fall semester always brings a new kind of energy, the energy that the body projects when you're pretty much running on adrenaline alone (the message: ALMOST. THERE. CAN'T. STOP. NOW.). Just as I began to find my true niche within the dormfamily across from my dorm. Just as they started to adopt me (3rdB girl by, uh, "birth," 1stW girl by association and grace). The game itself is blurred; these are just guys that play basketball. The situations behind the game are "clear as mountain water." (courtesy John Kilgo)
Maybe it strengthened itself exactly a week later as we all wore black shirts for "Black Out" night--there's nothing that draws you in like wearing the same shirt as everyone else-- and Em and I had just finished our first college exams ever. Winning is so much sweeter when you don't have any homework!
I think it was well on its way about 52 weeks ago when we suffered a painful, peoplepacked, lone loss on another January Saturday afternoon, and I realized-- this is not okay! I love it! I love these guys! Boris! Steph! MPG! Thomas, JRich, Will, Bryant, Andrew!... I'm upset! Shit!
It sealed itself ten days later when I sat with my visiting family up in the high rafters and looked down upon probably the best 8 seconds of basketball a lot of people have ever seen, as my 18-year-old future NBA star classmate leapt high in the air for a 3, mirroring his dad's grace but with a look of furrowed determination all his own-- and then immediately went in for the steal, deciding that he liked that move so much he'd just go for it on the other side of the court. And then he grinned and stuck out his tongue almost as if he didn't know he could do that till he did, as we screamed at him, screamed for him, "HE'S A FRESHMAN!"
And it was nothing less than history on a Thursday afternoon in March when I sat in the second row of the student union amidst the yells and chants of the entire school crammed into one small space, classes forgotten, roaring at our boys on the big screen TV (TV!) who couldn't hear us but who knew we were there and so we wouldn't dare stop, just in case we could reverberate all the way to Buffalo. Our boys who were holding their own and dancing in the Madness. And even as we slowed, tired, ultimately downed, the talk never ceased-- the anticipation was palpable.
Palpable to the extreme eight months later, older, wiser, a summer and fall of change and new and old--friendships established, majors (close to being) declared, a home put together, the entire team back, and a community gathered to form a sea of red (courtesy of the shirts in the bookstore, which had been going strong all day as people rushed in and out, wallets lighter, hearts jittery), hardly noticing that we were surrounded by a much larger circle of Carolina blue-- the screams certainly couldn't tell you that. Downtown, being watched from above by helicopters, primetime broadcast to the nation-- how did we end up here?!
Maybe we could answer that as we devoted our beings to pushing our boys, to overwhelming them as much as we could with joy and appreciation and elation-- singing, shrieking, overtaking: GOOD TIMES NEVER SEEMED SO GOOD! We could answer it simply because they deserved to be there, recognized for their hard work and their dedication and hope. We could have told you that long ago, but we'll jump up and down and let you soak it in for yourselves as you finally figure it out, and as we enjoy the ride that they have every right to take. And yeah, there are ups and downs and profanities and jubilations-- but they're always there, and we're always there.
That's what it is.
At halftime today, the court was lined with 70 years' worth of men who have left our collective home away from home and made their way out of the bubble to create wonderfully full lives. They came back and stood before us so that we, no longer teenagers but barely adults, could see the significance that this place holds for them, and that there is much more history behind today's dunks and threes and blocks and steals and rap music intervals than we realize. And that our boys, holed away in the locker room planning, have a place in this history-- and therefore, so do we. It's a humbling feeling. And honestly, it's not humbling because it's basketball and we're oh-so-good at it and we can get national recognition for such a small school; it's because I will always be able to say that I am a part of this COMMUNITY that comes together to support each other, that becomes joyously one in so many ways--yes, this is only one.
It feels kind of silly to be so emotional about a basketball team, trying to write about it in such a life-altering sense, and I know that my male family members deserve some of the credit for passing on their intense sports-angst to one of their few daughters. But it's that word up there in caps-- the word that inspires so much of what I write, the very real concept that brings a grin to my face at some point every single day-- that leads me to this point. Standing there in that arena that only holds about 5500 people, I can scream, jump around, sing, laugh, shriek-- I can be completely myself (sometimes with a little extra profanity thrown in) and it's fine with everyone else, it's welcomed by them. I can start cheers if my sports-angsty heart moves me, and people will join in. There I stand in the sold out student section behind the basket, with a very deep knowledge that this is exactly where I am supposed to be-- not only in this hour, but in my life. At this place, in this state, in this room writing at 2 in the morning, not knowing so many things. But it's okay, because this place-- most importantly, these people-- bring me such joy.
And so it semi-started with a basketball game, but it will never end.