(image credit here)
Sweat. Blood. Tears. Rain. Worn-out shoes. New shoes.
Pushing yourself against so many walls. Crashing against so many barriers.
Endless bottles of energy drinks. Perspiration, smelling like undoing baths and friendship and locker room secrets. In your minds it is sweet; it all smells like the best scent in the world (your fans won't tell you otherwise anyway).
There are a lot of moments. Moments a lot of people don't get to see. All the laps you run just to get closer for just one second faster. All the rings you miss shooting to get in that buzzer beater just on time. The moments when you walk away when a bold enough schoolmate approaches you and asks to take a picture with you. The you outside the court. The you just being you.
And water. A lot of it. There was bottled water, poured over tired heads and poured into parched waiting throats before standing up and going back to the grind. There was the water from the showers, blocking out expectations and fame and everything public and leaving you with your thoughts and your own expectations the very core of who you are and why you're doing all of this in the first place.
For the school? For the game?
And then there were the tears.
The happy kind. The sad kind. The "we probably look stupid but oh who cares" kind. The bittersweet kind. The victorious kind.
And amidst a sea of yellow, over the chaos of beating drums and screaming people, you gathered into a circle and raised your fists to the air. Index finger extended, you moved it in a circle around your head in one move of adrenaline-pumped oneness. The crowds cheered your names, your university.
You were one.
You were one more step away.
You shout along with the crowd, to the rhythm of the drums, to the cheers you hear every game, the cheers you know by heart.
You can never get enough of them. And you'll never get tired of hearing them.
Hours later when the ringing fades away from your eardrums, the crowds have thinned, and you're sitting in your university bus on the way back you remember.
You remember the crowds, the screaming, the cheering. The sound of the ball as it goes from the ball to your hand. Back and forth. Back, and it leaves your hand again as you shoot towards another game well fought, another game well played.
You remember why you are here in the first place.
It was worth it after all.