I may die today

“I may die today,” is a Buddhist mantra used especially during morning mediations to remind oneself that you should live in the present and to the fullest because today may be your last.  That is one of the things I admire about professional athletes.  They are always present and they always play as if this may be their last play.

By the time they reach to professional level, athletes have seen every kind of injury and every type of game loss imaginable.  They understand instinctively not to trust any gambling lines that they should win easily.  They know to never take a play off because that is when you get hurt.

That is one of the things I work on every day.  Living in this moment and not worrying about the things out of my control.  The old saying is, “Half the things you worry about will never happen and the other half are going to happen anyway.”  When you watch the best teams play, the whole team seems to have this very understanding in the front of their minds.

One of the things you often hear from players on the New England Patriots is that everyone just does their job.  Meaning, each player does what he has been told to do on each play without worrying about whether his teammate is doing the same.  They have developed a trust in their teammates through continuous repetition in practice, in the film room, and on the field.

That is one of the things you can gain from playing sports and participating on well-coached teams:  the ability to always be present, to focus on the task at hand, and to take advantage of every moment by doing your best.

I may die today.  Am I doing what I love?  I may die today.  Am I living my life to the fullest of my abilities?  I may die today.  Will this life have been worth it?

Athletes do not ask these questions.  They are too busy living each moment to ask these questions or to worry.  The best athletes always push themselves to use every ounce of their abilities and to do whatever it takes to get better.  This sometimes makes them horrible people to be around.  That is not to say, this expression of that drive is inevitable.  Some athletes spin that drive into more positive ways and do not seem to have demons following them.

For better or worse, athletes have taken their place as our modern pantheon of public gods.  And we let them because we have been taught that we need that pantheon.  We need our heroes.  They make our lives a little happier; they give us hope that things are possible.  They do provide that solace, that hope; however it is only a transient feeling.

Even in this age where we have so much more information about them, we know less about these public gods.  Most of the things we know come from the athletes and their P.R. machines.  We get information from their official Twitter handle or their official Facebook page, and if we get any kind of stories on ESPN, Sports Illustrated, or name your website it is usually some story out to prop up their official hagiography.

Even if we know it is not quite the truth we keep coming back.  Even if you have seen too much and lose that childlike fandom, you keep coming back with the hope of glimpsing something that makes you forget your worries and make it OK that you may die today.

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