I took a trip this week to a place many folks have never heard of. My son was playing basketball in the small town of Geraldine (pronounced Jural-deen by us sophisticates) Alabama. Some of the finest people I know come from this town and I am a good judge of people so you can bet there are some good folks there. They played the game in what was called the old gym, which seemed to me old when we played there in the last century (that’s right 1990’ers). So after a long day at work, a drive home and a quick shower it was off for a forty minute commute to Dekalb County and maybe a trip down memory lane as well.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived was that the parking lot was not as big as I remembered. Sometimes memories are foggy so I went on inside the gym. Once inside I looked around the place and it had a familiar feel but something was different. Where I recalled large bleachers that were filled with rowdy ball fans back in the day there were merely two or three rows on either side. The gym itself seemed smaller as well. This couldn’t be the same place where we battled it out back when we were young and buff. The truth is that this was the same place though and while it was a fine gym, it wasn’t as great as I remembered it.
All throughout the country at youth sporting events legends congregate in bleachers to watch many different sports. Here they tell tales of long ago when athletes were stronger and faster and generally just played the game better. They usually have spent the day grinding away at some job they loathe, occasionally telling their heroic saga to coworkers who know better but let it go on because we all like to hear about greatness. Then it’s on to the game where they all speculate on how it should be coached as well as attack unwitting referees who must early on question the sanity of choosing to put on the stripes of indignity. A bitter truth remains for most of us that ever played a game. In the end we probably were not that good at all. The fact remains for the majority that no matter the outcome of the event, the next day holds another day in the salt mines. Maybe that is why we cling to the old days and manipulate our past in our minds, to take a little sting out of the fact that we may not be as unique as we thought. That is why I wanted that little country gym to be bigger, so it could hold all of my distorted memories and take me back to a time when everything seemed possible. That is why I will always be a hero to all who didn’t know me then, because it is my yarn to spin. I can always be a legend, if not in my time, at least in my mind.