All Out

February 20, 2012
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I come from a dusty driveway radiating heat in the summer sun. Pine trees arch over it showering their fragile dead, brown needles down upon the perfectly black asphalt surface, dark as the midnight sky on a starless, moonless night. A solitary figure in black shorts and a Celtics jersey bounces a green and white ball in the scorching midday heat. Sweat drips off his brow as he fires off shot after shot like an old west gun slinger. The tattered navy blue and white Jordans on his feet look as if they will fall apart at any second. Shot after shot is lofted into the salty ocean air, some arcing so high that they scrape the overhanging pine boughs and send a down a monsoon of needles. This is where I come from.
I am in the brightly lit gym, the florescent lights glaring off the dazzling polished hardwood floor. Navy blue banners trimmed with a blue somewhere between the color of the sky and the ocean line the walls. They are constant reminders of past success and triumph. The squeaking shoes and the pounding of dozens of basketballs have no effect on me. I keep to myself. The world around me is fast paced and hectic, as blurred figures zoom about in circles like a NASCAR race. They are faceless and nameless. They do not matter and I pay them no mind. The only thing that matters is me and my basketball. I weave in and out of bright orange cones. I dribble past trashcan defenders, dummies in my way. The imaginary defense cannot stop me, they cannot guard me. I am Michael Jordan, they are Craig Ehlo. An imaginary crowd roars in my ears as I hit more game winners in 15 minutes than Kobe Bryant has hit in his lifetime. I throw myself a pass and take two dribbles left, crossover to my right hand, and go off an imaginary ball screen. I take two more dribbles with my right hand, come to a screeching stop, and pull up. My arm extends and wrist flicks. The ball is in the hoop before you know what happened. Camera bulbs flash in the dreamlike scene that is painted in my head. This is where I am.
The walls are made from crumbling cement, the ground is rock hard and frigid like the arctic winds. Exposed pipes and wires hang from the ceiling like mechanical spiderwebs home to a robotic arachnid. The room is dimly lit by a few flickering florescent bulbs and a minute amount of natural light flowing in from the dusty, dingy windows that are netted with spider webs. The only sounds are the clanking of iron hitting iron and iron slamming against the concrete floor. A steady diet of Jay-Z and Kanye West emanates from the Bose speakers plugged into the iPhone 3GS. I am all alone. I spread my hands out on the silver bar with the pitch black 45 pound plates. In my head I count down, 3,2,1. I lift the bar up off the rack and drop it down. Seconds before it slams into my chest and sucks the air and life out of me, it stops, and, using all of my might, I push it up, up, and lock my arms. Repeat 8-10 times and this is where I am.
The bright lights blaze down on the wood floor like a midsummer sun on an asphalt driveway of forgotten times. The crowd reaches a deafening roar and cameras flash at seizure inducing rate. The clock reads 00:05. Five seconds left, five seconds and two points separate me and my teammates from glory. The ball is inbounded to me and I take two dribbles left, crossover to my right hand, and go off a ball screen. I take two more dribbles with my right hand, come to a screeching stop, and pull up. My arm extends and wrist flicks. The ball is in the hoop before you know what happened. We win. This is where I am going.
I come from a place where you go hard or go home. I was raised on the ideals of the great Steve Prefontaine, “to give anything else than your best, is to sacrifice the gift”. While this is an ideal that for me most clearly translates into sports, I try to apply it to the rest of my life. In school, in my relationships with my family, and my friends. I try to be the best possible student, friend, brother, or son as can be. It does not matter where you come from, where you are, or where your going, as long as you give it your all, you will succeed in whatever you try.





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