Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Glory Days & Self-Analysis...

Glory Days.  This morning I posted old basketball clippings from my time playing overseas to this very blog.  And this past weekend I posted old basketball photos to Facebook.  I readily admit that these postings represent odd behavior, especially at my age.  And to be honest, they are slightly embarrassing.  I read them as betraying a lingering insecurity.  But - blame the power of the internet - I simply could not help it.  The call of social networking and the appeal of cyber-archiving & cyber-organizing one's life...must stop myself...was just...must hold on...too difficult...must fight urge...to resist.

So here's the "self-analysis" part:  why?

I am not a high school kid trying to bolster my case for popularity or sex appeal:  I am 38 1/2 years old, I am happily married, and we have an amazing newborn daughter.

I am not one-dimensional:  I have been a student, a basketball player, a stock trader, a coach, and a world traveler.

I am not fighting some self-loathing depression born of an uninspired existence:  I have a good job, I stay in decent shape, and I enjoy an all-around terrific quality of life.

But if all that is true, where does this creeping insecurity come from?  Why the need to reflect on old photos and organize archives from the "Glory Days?"  Why does it feel like I am posting my credentials as some kind of evidence of a life well-spent?  Am I trying to convince others, or myself?  And truthfully, years later, who really cares about this nonsense and these old clippings anyway?  And yet while I know no one cares, still I post, and - gasp - may even continue to do so...but why?

Is it possible to be self-aware and delusional at the same time?

Or is it all innocuous...maybe it's just the need to leave a trail for my daughter one day?  Or is it worse...am I trying to still prove myself to myself in some way?  To comfort myself with, look what I have done...it's a full life...so that it's ok to now be settling down, to be acquiescing to what some might call the life of quiet desperation with the house and the kids and the white picket-fence?  Hmmm...

So what's my best guess as to why I post this crap?  Mortality, in part.  Or, more appropriately, athletic mortality.  The end of the road, so to speak, makes me reminisce about the road actually traveled.  That's certainly a big part of it, and that mortality has been creeping up over the last few years:  a knee surgery in 2005, an appendectomy in 2005, a torn Achilles in 2009, marriage, family, career...age.  After 25+ years of feeling relatively "on top of my game" with respect to my chosen sport, I am feeling - and seeing - the downward slide.  I can no longer willfully determine the outcome of a basketball game on my own anymore - I can't "turn it on" and decide what is about to happen.  My presence on a court now is substantially as...filler.  And after 25+ years of being one of the best guys on the team or on the court or in the game, it's hard to overstate what that now feels like.  Castrated is too strong a word.  So is crippledLacking is good, but not quite.  Maybe the best way to explain it is to draw a comparison that almost anyone can relate to:  the aging of a beloved family pet.  When you see that dog, for example, approaching 15 years old and starting to wobble and shake...and you can so clearly remember the puppy days and the jump-all-over-you and the fetch-for-hours and the absolutely-he's-gonna-catch-that days...isn't it just kind of...well...sad?  Do you know the feeling that I am talking about?  Why Dad?  Why can't he be a puppy forever?  Why can't he play anymore?  Why does he have to get old?

And the things that you remind yourself about your beloved, failing dog are the same things I tell myself now about my six-foot-slow-white-guy-body:  it was a good run, he was such a great friend, I couldn't ask for anything more...  Regardless, the sadness remains.  So maybe I post against that creeping mortality.  As if to look age in the eye and say, yeah, you might be winning now...but I owned you back in the dayAnd here's proof.  Of course, this does not get you very far, because you quickly realize that you can't go back and can't catch up and age is winning - will win - and the whole thing ends up being more depressing that when you started.  So let's move on to reason #2. 

Maybe I post old clippings out of some deep-rooted resistance to normalcy.  By bringing past accomplishments back to the light of day, whether athletic or otherwise, it's as if I am listing for myself all the things already checked off the Bucket List.  And that makes it somehow easier to accept my current age and stage in life.  Maybe I am saying, it's ok to slow down now...you did a lot already.  Of course, what's annoying about that reality is that it just doesn't work that way for me.  Instead, I think about how much more I could have, and should have, done.  When I look back, the most frequent question that pops into my head is always a variation of the "youth is wasted on the young" theme:  Did I accomplish enough with the resources I had?  And did I appreciate those resources, and those opportunities, while I had them?  More often than not, unfortunately, the answer is no.  I am not sure why.  And it spirals on itself, it really does.  When I come across an old picture and think back on it, invariably I come to the point at which I desire to be that again.  I want to look like that, play like that, and have that freedom (from material burdens, from responsibility, from expectation, from bills, from career paths, from "normalcy").  And that craving to go back - which is relatively insatiable sometimes - leads me to look at more photos, and reminisce more...and, subsequently, I probably end up posting those images in the hopes that somehow - once added to my "profile" or my "photo album" - the act of posting will make me that person, or more specifically that athlete, again.   And, just as with argument #1, this one is also a losing proposition.  Can't go back, can only move forward.  No help there.  How about #3...

I suppose the third possible reason to post this stuff is that underneath the bitter pill of "time past" and "age" lies the sweet ability to re-live, and perhaps re-experience and re-enjoy, past accomplishments.  I think this is the one I want to build on.  Please know that I am in no way comparing myself or any of my accomplishments to those of Jerry Rice, whom I greatly admire and consider one of the best - along with Walter Payton and Joe Montana - football players of my lifetime.  But this part of his recent Hall of Fame acceptance speech - as quoted by SI's Peter King - stopped me dead in my tracks:

"I'm here to tell you that the fear of failure is the engine that has driven me throughout my entire life. It flies in the faces of all these sports psychologists who say you have to let go of your fears to be successful and that negative thoughts will diminish performance. But not wanting to disappoint my parents, and later my coaches, teammates and fans, is what pushed me to be successful ... The reason nobody caught me from behind is because I ran scared. People are always surprised how insecure I was. But I was always in search of that perfect game, and I never got it. Even if I caught 10 of 12 passes, or two or three touchdowns in the Super Bowl, I would dwell on the one pass I dropped ... If I have one single regret about my career standing here today, it's that I never took the time to enjoy it.''   -- Jerry Rice, in his Hall of Fame speech Saturday night.

I don't know about you, but I found that poignant, and I think a little sad.

I actually get that, I really do.  And it sucks.  As Peter King notes, it is sad.  But in my case, maybe - just maybe - posting the old stuff is a way of reliving it, reframing it, and actually enjoying it.  Maybe I was also driven by fear and failure and I never really enjoyed it all as much as I should have.  And maybe posting about it is a way of going back, Marty McFly style, examining the details, and appreciating it more.  Does that make any sense? 

So...whether I call it insecurity, rampant nostalgia, a push against impending mortality, a means of accepting age and responsibility by reminding myself that I had once "been there" and "done that," or just a way to actually enjoy the past in a way I perhaps never enjoyed in the moment itself...well, I am ok with it all.  And in the name of archives and keeping this stuff fresh before I turn 75 and senility sets in - and maybe even in the name of enjoying it all one more time - I am going to be posting a few stories from my basketball career.  They won't be in order, just random memories, but what the hell.  Maybe it's over indulgent, maybe it's an epitaph.  But I think it will be fun.  And perhaps even cathartic.  (But probably not...) 

No comments:

Post a Comment