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Outside the White Lines

BY: Scott Fisher | Category: Self Improvement | Post Date: 2009-11-02

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   Scott Fisher
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Every time I see bleachers, I feel it - the same longing, shameful, empty feeling that I'm feeling now. Consciously or subconsciously - I'm not sure which - I happened to move to a house in Greeley Colorado that sits directly across the street from a football field. So this morning, as it is every morning these days, I feel it.

There was a time, a literal lifetime ago, when the sight of the field filled me with a sense of power and ownership, as though I had won this land through battle and it now belonged to me. Between the white lines I conquered and excelled. As Denzel Washington says in -Remember The Titans-, -this right here is always perfect.-

The football field was my home, the one place on earth that I felt alive and in control. Everything made sense here. Nothing surprised me, and nothing happened without me. I know now that I will never be as good or as smart or as capable or as outstanding as I was when I was on that field.

Now, I stand by my old truck, late for work and getting later by the second, looking, not at the field, but rather into it. I can smell the mud and grass, though the field is dry and empty. I can picture the lines, see them blurring by as I sprint down the field. I can hear the crunch as I make contact, feel the jarring of my teeth and the sweet, bitter taste of the blood in my throat. Between those lines is the only place I ever really belonged. I miss it.

So why, after all the glory, after all the tackles and touchdowns and winning, do I feel this sadness and despair? It's because I quit. After my senior year in high school, I lost the fire. When I stepped off the field, outside the white lines for the last time, it became the first step to a lifestyle of quitting. I was developing a chronic habit of walking away. So, now, when I look at this field, I no longer feel the rush, the adrenaline, the anticipation. Now there's only guilt. And I know that every failure, every time I give up, is directly linked to the day that I stopped being the one and only thing that I am. I wonder if I'll ever be anything else.

When, how and why the fire went out, I'm not exactly sure. I told myself I wasn't having fun any more. I told myself that I was tired of being pushed by my father to do something I didn't want to do. I told myself that I could be something better. The truth was - and is - that when I look back at all the years I played, through all the championships and honors and individual success, what I remember are the failures. I remember that one fumble when I was seven. I remember being called up to the varsity and breaking my ankle in practice. I remember missing that block in the playoff game. I remember being on the sidelines on the last play of the state championship because I didn't have what it took to play through the pain and be there when my team needed me. In fact, I now realize that I look at my entire life that way. I ignore the straight A's in favor of the one B. I trivialize Employee of the Year and bring up the lost client.

And it all started right there between the white lines - or, rather, when I stepped willingly to the other side of them. So, at forty-five, I'm asking myself, as I did that winter day in 1982, -what do I want to be when I grow up?- I've spent the better part of the last 30 years trying to answer that question and I can't. Will I ever again feel that control, power, perfection, that rightness? Or am I bound to a life of awkwardness, confusion and mediocrity? How can I live the rest of my life outside the white lines?

Strangely enough, my answer finally came while I sat buried in William Zinsser's On Writing Well. The chapters gently chipped away at my thick-headedness, pushed my buttons just enough that it began to come clear. The only thing in life that comes as naturally as football, to me, is writing. It has always been so, but I dismissed it all these years. Important people in my life have told me I should write and I shrugged it off. It never has occurred to me that maybe - just maybe - all of my other experiences happened just so I could write about them

So now, here I am, as James Allen said, with a -torrent of inspiration-, writing just to write, just for the sheer joy of it. Here I'm in my element, conquering my foes, in control of everything that happens on the field. The English language is my uniform, the blood stains on it only figurative, but no less visible to me.

And all I have to do when I sit down at my computer is close my eyes and imagine myself between the white lines.

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Comments on this article: (6 comments so far)

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Comment Comment By Comment Date
Second String
Ah yes we were Spartan Warriors, but you were the inspiration and you are the writer. "Take it back, do do do do, take it back"
TakeItBack 2009-11-04
Outside the White Lines
Thanks for the comments...you should be the one writing, not me. Beautifully written and right on the mark. We were warriors, weren`t we?
Scott 2009-11-03
Second String
We were Spartans. I might slap you upside the head here, buddy, as you did not walk off. And some cornball might say we walked off together. Nope. We swaggered off thinking there was another quarter or a double-header yet to go. We forgot to show up. Perhaps there is a rain delay and we can get our crap together, get back out there, and taste that sweet sweet smell of mud and grass again.
TakeItBack 2009-11-02
Second String
We are teamates- I wore your colors. I played along side you. I smelled the grit of the game, the sweat, and the blood. I shared your wins and the losses, the few losses, but we fought well. I played catch. Threw balls, chased balls, warmed up pitchers, cheered and never thought tomorrow would be different. I shared gloves, shared stories, shared dreams, and shared invincible visions that only young men have. We were different. We had team songs and team meetings. We sang along, not like some fricken glee clubbers, but rather like some hellions bent on making known we were to be reckoned. Unlike the boys from "Dead Poet`s Society" where they stood on a chair and addressed their teacher as "Captain My Captain" we stood on bleachers and dugouts and saluted one another, not coaches or teachers but each other with the omniscient cheers that this would never end.
TakeItBack 2009-11-02
Fame is shortlived
World if full of mean people and till you are a star they will try to stick with you. Same people do not take long enough to walk away from you when they cannot USE you... Harsh .. but true.
Priya 2009-11-02
Very touching, I was in the same situation
Hi Scott, I felt the same way when I severely broke my leg-bone and my gymnastics career which had just started, basically ended. All the fame gone in a second. I became a teacher and enjoy my work now, but still whenever I see those gym-parallel bars, it takes my breath away.
Trisha 2009-11-02

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