Game Day This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

February 23, 2011
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It’s a sunny Sunday morning. The ringing of the alarm is annoying and repetitive, but not enough to motivate me to get up to shut it off. My bed is warm, and comfortable, and my body aches at the thought of abandoning it. I force my eyes shut, praying that I fall back into the deep sleep I had been so rudely awakened from. A thought sneaks into the back of my mind, a reminder of sorts, and I remember what day it is. My body aches a little less, my bed losses its powerful hold on me, I welcome the light into my eyes, and I force my legs and arms to move. I’m awake.

My legs make their way to the bathroom almost independently of my will. They stop in front of the sink. The morning cloudiness in my eyes begins to fade, as the image of me in the mirror becomes clearer. I brush my teeth and wash face, a standard routine that takes on a lot more importance today. It’s part of the ritual. I change the boxers I wore to sleep in favor of skin-tight sports underwear. They are very comfortable. The elastic is tight enough to follow the movements of my body, but loose enough to not cause any rashes. To me they are lucky.
I make my way to the kitchen, and find my grandmother is already awake, making her coffee. She offers me cup. Under normal circumstances I would accept, but today was different, and coffee is not part of the ritual. I grab a bowl and fill it with milk. I explore the cabinets for any cereal my mom happened to buy that week. I’m in luck; it’s a brand I love. I open it and pour it into my bowl. I grab a banana, and I serve myself a glass of water. I eat the banana first, in approximately four big bites. I love the taste of bananas, and the energy they provide is invaluable. I eat my cereal slowly, so as to avoid feeling bloated. I drink every last drop of milk from the bowl. The calcium and the protein are supposedly beneficial, and any possible advantage is welcome. I sip away at the water throughout the meal, so as to stay hydrated. My body feels great.

I walk back to my room, this time with a little skip in my step, as the excitement begins to spread throughout me. On my desk is my jersey which smells freshly washed, my tights with the pads already put in and the belt already passed through, my helmet with the mouthpiece attached and the chinstrap already adjusted to my head, and my cleats are sparkling clean waiting for me on the floor. Hanging on the door is my tight undershirt, and in the closet are my old rusty shoulder pads. I put it out the night before, following the steps of my ritual religiously. I did, however, forget the socks. A frustrating set back. I squeeze on the tights, I squirm into my undershirt, and I drape the shoulder pads with my jersey. I yell for my mom. “What is it!” she yells back. I ask about the whereabouts of my socks. “The laundry room!” I hear her say. She goes on about something else, something about a mess I made somewhere. I don’t ignore her on purpose; my mind is simply in a different place. I get my socks on, and slip some sandals over them. I feel ready.

My helmet, shoulder pads, and cleats go in my bag, which I then place right next to the front door. I lie down on bed and turn on some music. I play my favorite song,” Watch Her Ride” by Jefferson Airplane. The music does all the right things to my attitude. It takes away the anxiety and the nerves, but not the excitement. It’s followed by “Tighten Up” by the Black Keys. I consider making a playlist for special days such as this one; it’s annoying to have to find the songs individually. It would really make the ritual much smoother, I think to myself. My father walks in the room, interrupting my thoughts. “How do you feel, did you get enough sleep?” he asks. “Just fine, and yes, I slept like a baby” I answer absent mindedly. “That’s good, and what about breakfast, did you eat the banana like I told you?” he asks, in a caring tone. “Yes pa, got it, and the bottle of water is waiting for me in the refrigerator.” I answer. “Good son, I have a feeling you guys are going to do great today, just remember to keep your mind level, and never stop giving it your all.” His speech is forced, but the intentions are genuine. I don’t show it, but his attempt at being inspiring means a lot to me. “Thanks pa.” I reply, a little more dryly than I had intended. “Get your stuff in the car, we leave in 15 minutes” he says with a smile as he leaves. My ritual is complete.

My dad and I go over the plays in the car. I explain to him my favorite play. Trap 23 it’s called. He does his best to understand, and succeeds to some degree, enough to understand why it’s my favorite play. He used to love sports so he understands why I’m not responsive. My mind is thinking of other things. I’m going over every situation in my head, testing to see if I would know what to do, when to break right, when to cut left, and when to spice things up with a little spin. I review it all over in my head while in the midst of the conversation with my father. I think he noticed what was going on in my head. He smiles, as far as I can tell it’s out of pride. He tells me of how he misses his days as a player. The melancholy in his voice as he describes how much I should appreciate moments like these makes me a little sad for him, but not sad enough to stop thinking about what’s to come. My thoughts are clear.
The car stops, we are at the stadium. The day is still just as sunny as it had been in the morning. Just enough breeze to cool you off, but not enough to mess with a ball’s trajectory. It is perfect. I make my way to the locker room. My team is there. They greet me loudly and almost uniformly, many of them with profanities. They have a fire in their eyes. I wonder if that’s the way I look as well. I put my cleats on. I tie them nice and tight. I put my shoulder pads on, and fasten them. I place my helmet under my shoulder. I run out to the field. My excitement is overwhelming.

As I run, I feel the breeze against my face. The grass looks greener than usual. My strides seem faster than usual. My body feels stronger than usual. My heart feels like it’s going to explode. Every little beat it takes seems to fuel the crazy feeling coming over me. I go over my father’s words to myself, the ones about taking advantage of days like this one, embracing every feeling to its fullest, because I might not get them in the future. He is right. Days like these are special. Days with no worries, only obstacles to overcome, days where everything is clear, days where the purpose of one’s existence is easily defined, days when all you can think about is the win. I see my coach huddling up the team. I make my way to my team, my family. “I wish” I say to myself, “That every day, could be game day.”

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