Thursday, January 20, 2011

Who are we going to be?

Look at us, step back and examine these last few weeks, and I still don't think you can answer the question. Look at us, so sliding cool one moment so set up for miracles -- and in a split second smackflat on our face, stick-a-fork-in, wipe-the-floor-with. Ugh. Open season for desperation, heart dropping into that knowing silence except for the echo of shoe squeaks, five still fighting, a sound that I start to hear even when my windshield wipers slice sticky through the raindrops. I'm no expert here, I'm not tactical or technical, but I watch the game and I hear the talk and I get the vibe and I see the stats and I understand:
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Ideal January basketball (ideal anytime basketball), this is not.
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And yet I stand for them, these furrowedbrow boys who somehow -- even if they do not know it -- stand for me. I stand for them, and the way they fling words back and forth, encourage and instruct, the way they shoot and pass, the way they figure this out.
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Once upon a time three years ago, January 19th was a sleety Saturday afternoon, and their destiny-glazed big brothers burst wide with beams that came from stomping a conference foe by twenty-plus, from a full house stocked with historic characters and loveable pregaming fratstars -- but beams that came too from time and test, uncertainty and Figuring. It. Out. I don't need that day or its subsequent dreamblurred months back, I don't need it repeated, I don't expect the next chapter to be written exactly as that one was. Lord, it's taken me months, maybe years to figure out that I don't need it back, to figure out instead that what I need is this moment, this next step, and the smallest bits that push it forward -- yes, that joy to the rafters hallelujah lift and yes, even the heartsunk slapstunned crash.
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Through it all the story weaves, watches, writes. We keep different parts of it, we learn it by heart and by head and by hand; we share it by drink and by eat, by midnight pub lights and rainy car rides. We own it because we own ourselves, and self minus story just won't work (that's the kind of math English majors can do). From Raleigh to Nashville to Statesboro to 28036 we stand, because the boys stand, because one night -- any night, pick a night -- each one of us walked the cobblestone with the laughter of friends puffing around us and suddenly thought felt knew guessed ached hoped: home.
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On Monday night, I drove to Greensboro with three others; friends and acquaintances to begin the evening, but deeper now that we share a particular story. We sat in the front row of the over-empty Coliseum and I felt very contentedly like myself because this is what I do: I go to the game, I cheer and I talk and I laugh and I text the people I miss. I call the boys' names because they are part of a place where I belong, and sure, there's more to them than that one fact, but that one fact is enough. I was struck by how many people called out with me, so many faces I don't know and stories I haven't heard, and yet the names unite us. Imagine! -- by calling for others, standing for others, we ourselves are knit together. Even as the buzzer blares and they leave the court, even in defeat, we stand up for them.
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For a long time, fear paralyzed me, fear that this would all slip through my fingers with the turn of a tassel, by surrendering my mailbox key. But if anything has remained strong and real in this fuzzy new world of Vague Life Plans and How to Meet Non-Sketchy Guys, it has been my stronghold of friends, and it has been this. I haven't lost this story -- in fact, it's been more of a lifeline than I thought it could be. And this year, I think, more than any other, I want to get to the next game not to avenge a loss, no, not to prove we're getting better, no -- I want the next forty minutes because I can see the story writing itself (keep going give me moments more), pushing me forward as it goes. And God knows I need to be pushed forward.
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Maybe it's a tad pathetic when a twentysomething woman's first port of call in a time of transition and uncertainty is a college basketball team, or maybe it's just my way of Figuring. It. Out.
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Around and around we will go -- the drizzling January night driving back from Greensboro mournfully singing "Cry Me a River" will happen again, the warm punchy storytelling Brickhouse night will happen a million times over, but with a new play-by-play every time. The achingly jubilant win, the gut-wrenching hair-tearing loss. Long ago this became something bigger than you or me, before I ever knew it existed it was vast and collective and I didn't understand it and often I still don't -- but as long as we show up to sing and talk and laugh, it works for me.
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I think of the Psalms and their fullness, cradling all voices, lament rejoice shout sob.
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Sometimes it makes sense, maybe for seconds maybe for months, and when I catch my breath I feel the stories rising. I will tell them as long as I breathe. So will you. The boys will, too. These words, our words, are somehow part of the moving shifting answer to --
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Who are we going to be?
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Watch and tell, wait and see.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know there was anyone this enthusiastic about davidson basketball living off campus/ outside of davidson college. What a joy!