Becoming a legend

My biggest comforts in life have come from the faint “click-clack” of metal cleats on concrete and the scent of freshly mown grass just before the game. My favorite feelings come when I pull up a pair of long athletic socks or throw on a jersey.

You see, I’m a junkie, and sports are my high. Maybe it’s the rush I get when adrenaline is pulsing through my veins. Maybe it’s the way I’m addicted to the feeling I get right before the game: those moments just between the first whistle and tipoff, the few seconds just before kickoff or that split second between the time the pitcher lets go and the ball reaches the plate.

No matter what got me hooked, I started down that slippery slope when I was 4 years old. That’s when I first picked up a baseball glove and started the game I’ve loved more than most everything else in life.

I’ve played every position and batted in every slot of the lineup. I didn’t care where I was, just as long as I was on the field.

When I realized baseball alone couldn’t satisfy my hunger to play, I dribbled a basketball for the first time. It may not have been pretty then, but it felt right, all the way to my bones. With basketball, it was much easier to practice, because I could shoot on the portable goal in my driveway for hours every night with only the faint glow of a motion sensor for light.

I was getting pretty good, and my coach said I had a chance of being a starter in junior high, even though I was only going to be in sixth grade. That summer is when it happened. Sure, I’d had my share of busted lips and bloody noses in baseball, but that just comes with the sport. This time was different.

I was dribbling in to take a routine jump shot in practice when a teammate collided into my knee. My coach yelled at me to get back up, until he noticed that my leg was twisted about 90 degrees, starting just above my knee. I recovered much faster than doctors expected from that broken leg, but my basketball skills never quite returned. Since then, injuries have plagued most of the sports in my career. I’ve broken my nose twice, and fractured it at least twice more.

My dad always told me I should quit because sports treated me so roughly, but that was never an option. Through all the blood, sweat and tears, there was always something to fight for. There was always that dream for greatness. On top of that, sports served as my outlet for emotions. Hitting a golf ball relaxed me. Playing tennis relieved stress. No matter how bad I felt, sports could always make me happy like nothing else could.

Now that I’m in college, most of my sporting desire is lived out as a fan rather than a player. Saturdays are for NCAA football – namely the Crimson Tide, but obviously the SEC reigns supreme overall – while Sundays are spent watching the NFL. Weekdays vary, including everything from soccer to basketball, depending on the time of year. Though I mostly watch them instead of play, I haven’t given up sports. I could never give up such a dream of greatness.

All my life, my greatest desire was to become a legend. I think I did that. Sure, it was only in my mind, but isn’t that all that really matters? You have to be proud of what you’ve done. I am. Now, in my mind, I’m the greatest legend of them all.

Column by Ryan Richardson, Online Editor.