I’m sitting here watching Kansas battle Memphis for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. I love basketball. I especially love Kansas basketball, but a game as well-matched as the one we’re watching tonight is just fun to watch…even if it is a little nerve-wracking if you have an invested interest in one team or another.
It’s this invested interest that I’ve been thinking about, and I don’t know that I’ll be able to articulate this train of thought accurately but at times like this I feel bad for basketball players. Or football players. Or athletes in any sport where dedicated (obsessed?), loyal (crazy?) fans follow your every move and have an opinion on your every action. At times like this, I’m grateful that my sport is one that no one cares about.
I know that playing for a Division I team is one of the lifelong dreams of these athletes. I’m sure that, to a certain degree, they’re prepared for the level of attention they’re going to receive. It’s probably been increasing as their talent develops. Some may even enjoy their time in the spotlight. And, as a fan, I enjoy every chance to follow their careers…every Rock…Chalk…Jayhawk. 🙂
It’s just that when I compare it with my own experience, I don’t know how they do it. Balancing the life of the STUDENT athlete is hard enough when competitions take place once a week (if that) and the only people who care about my performance are me, Coach, my team, and my family. The community at large? Not so much. I’m not sure I could handle that pressure. I’m not sure how the other athletes do. I’m not sure that this makes any sense. It just gets to where I feel sorry for the losing team of games that an entire state or entire nation cares about.
I understand that there are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, success is equated with fame. If you’re going to play for a DI team or at the professional level, people are obviously going to take notice. If you’re not getting noticed, you either haven’t been “discovered” or you’re not yet ready for the next level. What I see as pressure, others may see as a sign that they’re at the top of their game. They made it.
And, on the other hand, how many times have I complained that no one cares about running? I can’t even count. It’s funny to think that one of the things I’ve been whining about all these years is something that I now take a small portion of comfort in. Something that I can occasionally be grateful for.