Sometimes a Great Thing...
It isn't about the game at all. It's just a game, after all. It's about how it makes me feel, and I don't think that it's just a by-product of the game, no...it's a state that I find myself in...a place of peace...and it's been that way since I was a kid, but it comes from somewhere other than the joys and challenges of a game. It astonishes me how I ever forgot it. It's a connection thing, a heart beating under a bright sun, with wet grass beneath my feet and eyes squinting into the blue. It's a heaving chest and a burning feeling of great gulps of air, and it's the chasing and being chased. It's being with others, and it's a mix of humility and mastery. It's remembering what it's like to be eight years old and cradling a stick. It's as close to being connected to everything and all at once as I get, and I love it.
It's why I wanted to give it to the kids that I see on the street, in the halls at school, sitting in offices and waiting for appointments that change their lives...it's why I wanted to try and do something that honours the game, and embraces a physical kind of reverence, a kind that I've found in few other places. The game, and the medicine that it is intended to create, is more unfathomable magic than sport. It heals.
The game was born out of an impossibly simple story, and is the oldest game we play here on this continent. It is not just connected to our past, it is our past, and you can feel it if you're paying proper attention. I do. It's a tether to something barely comprehensible, something as ancient as us, and that's humbling. Now I see what others see on their mountain tops and in the middle of oceans and on frozen ponds and empty gyms (I'm still a giant fan of half darkened empty gymnasiums).
My friend Dan fought...it's what anchored him to his ancient animal instincts and urges. I never understood, and then one day I did. It connected him to something, and he didn't need to explain that to anyone. It just did. So he trained and he fought and he ignored everyone, and somewhere in all of that he felt anchored. This game does the same for me, and as a young man I was barely paying attention. Now I notice the pounding heart, and I relish the tightness in my hamstrings the next day. I literally expand with pride and joy when things are working. It's gone from an ego driven thing in my youth, to a joyful extension of my own deeply personal characteristics...I like being unselfish...I like trying something new and doing things that require stepping out of my comfort zone...I like knowing better, and heading none of those urges...I like feeling alive in the company of others. This isn't about the game, although it's very much a game that makes me feel this way. This is about finding myself in something so much bigger, and that, alone, is a healthy, impossibly difficult thing to explain. I love playing, and I love being around it, and I love thinking about it.
I especially love knowing that my daughter is watching, and that she's soaking up all of the awesome that I can dig up and leave lying on the ground for her. I love that she appears mid-game, running over the hill and yelling, "Daddy, Daddy," and waving like her arm's on fire...and how she giggles and dances on the sideline, and waits for her Dad to be done. I love the look on her face and her desperate desire to wrap her arms around me. That has nothing to do with the game, but everything to do with finding that peaceful place where the rest of the world fades, leaving just you and a heaving chest. Is it magic? Maybe. It sure is medicine.