Last Saturday afternoon, I watched the Tri-West and Indian Creek volleyball teams trade haymakers for five heated sets. By the fifth, I was on my feet, following the thrill ride as it veered back and forth with each point.
I felt the same excitement a couple of weeks ago watching the Center Grove and Pike football teams trade last-second touchdowns.
Moments like those are why I chose to do what I do for a living — the adrenaline rush that comes with a hotly contested competition is almost impossible to match.
When I was younger, those moments felt like life or death. I still remember the rush I felt when one of the teams I played for won a big game, and I still remember how deflated I felt after my high school basketball team lost in the final seconds at the old Boston Garden (the fact that I was glued to the bench the whole time didn’t make it hurt any less).
This is why one of my least favorite things to do is interview a young athlete just minutes after a season-ending defeat. It’s a little like trying to console a friend at a funeral — there really isn’t anything you can say to make them feel better, and plenty you can say to make them feel worse. But you’ve still got to do it.
I understand the highs and the lows that these athletes are experiencing, but now that I’ve gone a couple of decades without wearing a uniform of any kind, my perspective has changed a bit.
Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not as emotionally invested — though I always want the local teams to do well, I’m not on those teams. Maybe a quarter century of following the “no cheering in the press box” rule has mellowed me out.
Or maybe it’s just like Hall & Oates told us — believe it or not, there’s life after high school.
Whatever it is, I’ve learned to savor the moment a little more as it’s happening. I quickly got over the disappointment of Notre Dame losing to USC in 2005; I haven’t forgotten how surreal it was looking out the press box window and soaking up the energy that filled the stadium, especially in the final minute.
That state semifinal loss in the Garden 26 years ago doesn’t really sting anymore, but I still clearly remember warming up on that famous parquet floor, getting introduced before the game and looking up into the stands that I’d sat in so many times before.
The moment lingers longer than the W or the L does.
As you’re watching or participating in these do-or-die postseason events this weekend, be it cross country, football or volleyball, your day will undoubtedly be made better or worse by the end result. That’s to be expected when you hop on board for rides like these.
But do yourself a favor — before that starter pistol goes off, or when you’re coming back out from a timeout and the game is on the line, take a second and let yourself absorb the moment. Cherish the rush that you’re feeling during the heat of it all.
Because that might really be what drew us into sports to begin with.