It’s one of the most awesome YouTube moments of 2013:
Did you see the look on his face? Didn’t it remind you of what sport is all about?
You missed it?
Go back. Look for him again.
He’s what? 10 years old, maybe? At the game with a few mates, in courtside seats. DeAndre Jordan dunks the ball over Brandon Knight, and all four of the kids vacate those seats immediately. Three of them jump around in excitement. But it’s him, standing up in the black on the left of screen, whose expression is the most priceless.
Go back. Look for him again. He appears 12 seconds into the video.
Recently, it has felt like so many of the world’s sporting stars have forgotten the wonder and purity of the kid’s expression. They’ve forgotten the reason why we love these silly games in the first place. Why we fete them so.
It’s all there, in the three-or-so seconds during which the kid’s on the screen.
Go back. Take another look, and try not to smile to yourself as you do so. You’re watching a moment that the kid will never forget.
While his mates launch themselves around, he stands contrastingly still, completely stunned by what he just saw. He stares up at the scoreboard, simultaneously experiencing two beautiful moments: the digestion of the fact that he was there and saw what he saw, and the awesome anticipation of the imminent replay.
Back in the days when his column in Sports Illustrated was compulsory reading, Rick Reilly wrote one of the most beautiful pieces of sportswriting ever penned. It takes longer than 3 seconds, but take your eyes off the kid and visit (or re-visit) ‘Funny You Should Ask’. Even if it’s just for the line: “Grown-ups spend so much time doggedly slaving toward the better car, the perfect house, the big day that will finally make them happy when happy just walked by wearing a bicycle helmet two sizes too big for him.”
Then, once you’ve returned, go back to the video. This time, look behind the kids. Some of the adults are only just starting to stand up towards the end of the 3 seconds. It’s as if they’ve only just remembered how they’re allowed to feel – how they’re supposed to feel – at moments like this one.
To be in the moment when you can’t do anything other than be in awe.
It’s the kid’s left hand that I love the most. After being seemingly stuck by his side for a couple of seconds, while the body slowly comprehends what has just occurred, the arm is raised as the kid starts to tap the back of his hand on his mate’s shoulder. But it’s such a light tap. It pays deference to the fact that his mates are there, but nothing more. For the kid’s in the moment. The moment can be shared later, and the story of it retold time and time again. For now, the moment is just too full-on.
Sportspeople are constantly caught in scandals that can and will destroy a kid’s expression of wonder. Drugs, match-fixing, tanking, whatever. Swimmers playing pranks on each other while at the Olympics, cricketers not doing their homework and sending arrogant Tweets during their worst performance in an age.
Meanwhile, adults are regularly forgetting why they love sport in the first place. Maybe it’s a generic and ongoing loss of innocence and joy that comes with the pressures of everyday life. Maybe it’s sports betting. Maybe it’s disillusionment with any number of establishments. Maybe it’s a slowly ingrained need to loudly criticise players and officials for destroying a fan’s “enjoyment of the game”.
As we age, those of us who still remember why we love these games come to realise that we appreciate sport differently as we traverse adulthood. We still leap out of our seats, but not as often as we once did. Instead, we are far more likely to look on in wonder while truly appreciating the artful string of passes and tactics that lead to the wide open shot. Moments we missed as children.
Nobel Prize-winning author J.M.Coetzee unsurprisingly describes the experience eloquently, when discussing watching Roger Federer:
“One starts by envying Federer, one moves from there to admiring him and one ends up neither envying him or admiring him but exalted at the revelation of what a human being – a being like oneself – can do.”
Go back to the video. You know you want to. Just one last time.
Remember what it’s like again. To be in the moment. To see something so freakin’ incredible that there is no earthly way that you can think about anything else.
To be there.
And to forever smile at the memory.