Thanks to Hollywood, society at large and a disposition that lends itself toward the overly sentimental and sappy, I have an image indelibly etched in my mind. The heroic athlete — having overcome a silver bullet wound, blatant prejudice, ghosts in his cornfield, cancer, pesky groundhogs, the Great Depression or some other adversity of equal importance — standing triumphant and resolute, everyone watching in awe as he transcends the idea of what sport is, and what it can be. Music plays in the background, swelling to a thunderous crescendo, matched only in emotional intensity by the drama playing out on the field. For one moment, time halts its ceaseless march (because in the movies, well, it really does), and you glimpse in a flash an image of the unfettered human spirit, of a natural and pure beauty. I have had such a moment. Let me tell you my story.
p. It occurred on a warm Saturday morning, a mere week and a half ago, at the Kappa Alpha Theta Charity 5k. Cue the camera on our hero (me), splayed out on his bed. His hair is ruffled; his clothes lie in a crumpled pile beside the side of the bed. He groans in a manner that leaves no mystery as to the pounding inside of his head. Obviously, he is in for a rough morning. The clock reads 7:55 a.m. as the alarm begins to chime.
p. Calling up a resolve and strength that rivals the heroes of Greek lore, he reaches across and slams the snooze button. Ten minutes later, cradling his head in his arms so as to avoid the light from the window, he gets up and begins moving around. Will three hours of sleep be enough for him to perform adequately in the big race? Will his hangover be a detriment to his conditioning? Could this possibly be an adversity that must be overcome in order to find success, both in a physical sense and in a spiritual one? Cue next scene.
p. A large group of people, some in running clothes, some costumed, stand behind a thin chalk line waiting for the starter’s gun. And by starter’s gun I mean group of giggling girls that are set to yell ‘Go.’ Our hero, still bleary-eyed and looking like he was attached to a whiskey IV for much of the preceding night, waits among the masses. Suddenly, filled with a clueless temerity, one of the girls yells go. With all of the purpose of a pack of wild buffalo the runners amble away in confusion, stumbling awkwardly off the proverbial cliff before the girl has a chance to say “just kidding.”
p. But it’s too late now – the girl in charge of timing runs over in shock, frantically pushing her stop watch – the race has begun.
The hero pushes immediately to the front of the pack, maintaining his pace just off of first place. The course winds through the various turns of campus and the surrounding neighborhood, and it quickly becomes apparent that no one knows exactly where the race is supposed to be run. Chalk arrows and orange cones point in every which direction. Runners begin to fall off of the torrid front tempo – for some the effort has become too much, others are fated to follow spray painted arrows and cones that mark a campus waterline – and soon the field has narrowed down to two.
p. With but a short stretch to go, the race looks unbelievably close. Muscles ripple and sweat pours off of the athletes’ glistening bodies, as the agony of the race shows on their faces. The moment for greatness is fast approaching – the spectators can tell because time is beginning to slow down – but one thing is missing: the music. Except not. One of the sisters has remembered the music and she flips the switch for the sound system, hoping to aurally encase the moment like an insect trapped in amber. The athletes, arms pumping, teeth gnashing, mouths snarling, feel too that the instant is upon them, and then they hear it: “Dreams last for so long, even after your gone. You were meant for me, and I was meant for you . . .”
p. Jewel?’ the athletes think. ‘Jewel?’ the spectators say, in shock. ‘Jewel?’ our hero ponders, not believing that his moment is being so horribly treated. And in that instant of such uncertainty and confusion, the other competitor strides ahead, breaking the non-existent tape and throwing his arms up in the air.
p. And so, that’s the tale of my almost-moment. If you were at the 5k and saw the race, now you know why I got second and failed to secure a glorious victory. I was sabotaged by a blonde folk-singing bimbo. I was ruined by Jewel. But hey, don’t worry about me – it’s not that I really wanted to win anyway. I’m done with sports in general, to be honest. They’re not for me anymore, I’m above it – I’m through with those foolish games.