Sept. 2, 2011
Saturday is going to be my first time witnessing a college football game in Neyland Stadium, so I am trying to learn the school song so I can blend in (or at least learn enough of it to where I can move my lips without stumbling and making a fool of myself). I am extremely excited to watch my peers take the field and carry on that great Rocky Top tradition, because I can identify with all the sacrifices that were made in order for them to be there. I wonder if they remember all of the greats that came before them when they exit that tunnel and the cheers of the rowdy crowd saturate the air with the melody of the band? I can't help but feel the joy they feel, because I am just anticipating that night when I get to experience the same thing on a slightly smaller scale. To be able to say that I wear "Tennessee" on my chest is one of the greatest honors ever bestowed upon me, because I know that here--and all around the world--that name is not just not another name on the jersey of a college team. It is a tradition and a passion that burns with an unquenchable flame. That name is easily distinguishable and is like currency in the eyes of anyone that has been fortunate enough to support this institution.
Before we can wear that jersey or that name on our chest, though, we have to be battle-tested, and there is no better test of a person than to make him or her a student-athlete. Notice how the word "student" precedes the word "athlete." Something that is so subtle goes unnoticed often--especially in circles where I hear people bring up "athletes" and refer to them in a negative light. This is because those people only have access to the "athlete" and not the "student." The problem with this whole paradigm of the "athlete" is that the order is reversed, so the message gets convoluted. Many people see us as "athlete-students" instead of "student-athletes," and for this we have no one to blame but ourselves because we choose one over the other. We hear anchors and analysts in the media boast about our athletic prowess much more than we hear them refer to our academic exploits. I guess when you are struggling to be two things (i.e. student and athlete), you tend to lean more toward one more than the other.
The greatest lesson that I have learned by being a student-athlete is the value of time management. I almost feel like time management is a talent, because the time it takes to master it cannot be measured--it's like you either get it or you don't. I remember on several occasions hearing people talk about time and its structure. Some say that time is linear; others would argue that time is a circle and it continues to reoccur. Perhaps this is why we make the same mistakes over and over again in life, knowing the consequences. Maybe this is even the reason we experience the sensation of "Déjà vu."
I started playing basketball the last semester of my freshman year in high school. I have observed that my time as a student-athlete is neither circular nor linear, but both. I noticed that as I learned, I made some of the same mistakes over and over. But that was because I was striving for perfection. In one category, academics are linear because they are a progression from learning to count on your fingers and toes, to absorbing complete knowledge, transitioning into gaining wisdom. When it comes to basketball/life, it seems like a spiral/circular pattern of mistake after mistake after mistake in succession until the day we breathe our last breath. Everything that we engage in throughout our life directly correlates to time. It is what we do with that time that is extremely crucial, because we don't have forever to make what we want to happen come true.
But in all of this I realize that it is always a good time to be a Volunteer! That logo burns deep into the heart and is etched there for eternity. I always thought that if you were going to get a tattoo, then it should mean something. And if it means that much to you, then there is no better place for it to be than in your heart.