34. At the Post-Game Press Conference
Reporter: What was going through your head when you made the winning play?
Athlete: I must admit that this question has always fascinated me, as it presupposes coherent, rational thought on my part while in the midst of the frenzy of intense physical activity, to say nothing of the incredible adrenaline highs one feels while in the throes of the competitive spirit. During moments of profound intuition–the inevitable byproduct of that old chestnut, “Practice makes perfect,” what does go on in the unfathomable minds of we, the professional athletes? Yes, there is always the standard answer to this query, something along the lines of “I knew that we had to make them play our game, and focus on what we could control, and being surrounded by so many teammates so determined to find a way to grind out a win shows everyone the kind of team we have” is–while accurate–also a sentiment that strikes me as deeply unsatisfying, as much as it surely strikes you that way, gathered members of the sporting press.
When in the act of making these plays, as of late, I have endeavored to take note of my thoughts, and as near as I can gather, while my body and my body’s memory are firmly in the present, my subconscious mind sends a jumbled assortment of bittersweet recollections, of childhood streets I shall never again experience except in the matinee movies of the brain-theater, of friends and family who have passed on, of the truth-beauty dichotomy so eloquently conveyed in the immortal works of Keats.
My childhood years were spent living in a middle class neighborhood in a working class factory town. In this neighborhood, there was a street called Whippoorwill Lane. Whippoorwill. Say it aloud with me. Whippoorwill. Simply repeating that wonderful word evokes the most achingly tender sensations. What I find deliriously odd about this memory is that neither I nor my family ever drove down Whippoorwill Lane. It was a side street, a cul-de-sac, several blocks from our house, and while the first half of the street was visible from the main road we took to get to our street, I do recall that Whippoorwill curved to the right, thus blocking the casual interloper from seeing what existed there in that hidden realm. My childhood imagination was awakened on speculating what existed there, beyond my field of vision from the backseat windows of my parents’ venerable Aerostar minivan. It might have been split-level ranches of the kind that so defined that neighborhood, it could have been the Taj Mahal. Who’s to say, really? Who’s to say?
This was my thought as I strong-armed my opponent before leaping into a backflip, landing on my back in the end zone, immediately leaping onto my feet, then shaking my hips and grabbing the vicinity of my crotch while engaged in my trademark dance of victory.
That is but one example. Winning, truth be told, is a heady mix of victory and despair. In the moments of my greatest triumphs, I must admit to feeling the bleak sorrow the writer of Ecclesiastes expressed when outlining the seeming futility of this too-short life. But there is so much joy…so much joy…a fleeting joy, but a joy nonetheless…be it winning the game, or admiring the works of the Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot while spending an afternoon lost in the myriad reveries of the Art Institute of Chicago. While these two endeavors seem a contrast, the internal result is always the same, that tell-tale spine tingle Nabokov so beautifully delineated as the very definition of artistic bliss.
I hope this answers your question.