There’s something viscerally nostalgic about late summer in the foothills. Purple mountains that turn deep scarlet in the late afternoon. I remember hell week, looking through the labyrinthine criss cross of my facemask, up at the mountains, feeling a sense of reverie, sweat burning my eyes, tasting the dirty salt on my tongue. I feel the same sense of dream I did ten years ago when I look up at them, the same sense of star bound wonder.
I took that dream with me to the valley. I let it ferment and fester, at any moment, I felt like I would burst into flames. I ran like a gazelle on scorched earth. Glory was intoxicating but even back then I remember feeling fragile. I sensed something was off, I didn’t feel the stoic wonder of the foothills, and I feared I never would. I flung myself violently into chaos, down after down. I was exploited until the ligaments of my shoulder were hanging by a string. By the end of the season I was damaged goods and a pariah.
I don’t miss the subordination, the old men chasing a deluded dream. I don’t really miss anything about it at all. I’ve seen too many grown men cry, it’s frankly pathetic. I often wondered how I got caught up in the ruse. Perhaps it was my older brothers, I had “big shoes to fill”. I had something to prove and hadn’t figured out why. I hadn’t figured out why I felt so uncomfortable and out of place even when I was a proverbial “star”.
When I look at the mountains now, I rarely think of football. All of it seems so ephemeral and embarrassing. Why was I so upset about it for so long? The injuries ruptured my sense of identity, which was already precarious. Men who I trusted manipulated and abandoned me when they could no longer solicit my services. I became disillusioned with everything. But when I look at the foothills now, I still feel hope, that one day I can be like them, majestic among men.
(Header image by Flckr user Don Graham)