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Passion is priceless

Adam Cahill | Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The sky is far from blue on this day. Lightning flashes and seconds later the thunder claps loudly against the dull landscape, giving reason to question why the scene is barren of people. However, there is one individual braving nature’s elements. The rain is coming down so hard that it feels like pinpricks on the lone soul’s shoulders.

But the figure remains on the field, undeterred by the torrential downpour or the chill given by soaked clothing. Fundamentals that have been practiced hundreds of times seem to hold new importance now, each one done by heart in the blinding rain. They are done meticulously, precisely, but without fear. The legs churn, the arms pump and the eyes remain focused – pushing, pulling, prodding for more in the slop of the muddy field. For every mistake that is made, the exercise is done correctly 10 times more. No mistakes are tolerated.

Now the dreariness of the late spring evening is fading into complete and utter darkness, and the fatigue of hours spent on the soggy field begin to show in the body language. But only the sagging shoulders and hands on hips illustrate the weariness, sweat having lost all distinction to the pouring rain. The movements are not quite as sharp, and the eyes have glazed over, making the mistakes snowball. But the dark silhouette keeps on, more determined to find the perfection that has not been reached, the time not yet achieved, the perfect 10 never attained. Only then does the figure fall, remaining motionless in the mud for seconds, seemingly like minutes, and time stops.

It is the desperate groping for something more. The mindless screaming in the inner soul that urges, that expects more, that is confident in the abilities not yet shown. It is the burning torment of defeat when an opponent celebrates a victory and the empty satisfaction of victory, knowing that you still have not shown the world your best. There is no substitute for it. It is only black and white. You either have it or you do not. Some teams have it and some teams do not. It is for the love of the game.

There is only so much the body can take. The body tries to get up but fails. Once again, an attempt to revive, to rejuvenate, but another failure ensues. After several minutes, a shaky hand is planted and an elbow is raised, pushing the body up from the earth with as much frailty as a matchstick house. Wobbling against the wind, the individual stands once again and the basics continue, slowly at first, then faster, one at a time, in the rain. It is a stirring sight but no one knows, no one sees. No one needs to know – the true champions are the ones who run even when they cannot stand.

It cannot be taught but it never leaves. It is the intangible that coaches preach and dream about but can never duplicate because it lies in a place that they can not touch. Away from all the scoreboards and shoes, contracts and television cameras, it is some place deeper. It follows an athlete into every aspect of life – jobs, family, company softball games – nothing is done with reserve. But like a sleeping volcano or a warrior retired to the solitudes of a farm, passion can lay dormant for years. The will to overcome and conquer can fade if something is not worthy of the absolute effort needed.

It is why men and women who have donned high school and college jerseys decades ago still talk about the glory days. If a horse retires from the track, does it mean it still does not love to run? It haunts them just as much as it drives. It is why they push their children to be better than them, why they will not accept anything other than 110 percent. They want that feeling again – the knowledge and quiet satisfaction that comes with doing more before breakfast than most of the population does all week.

And when we have it, we recognize it. We exploit it because some times it is all we have. We pity those who do not have it because we know that when the game, race or event comes down to the wire, they do not have a chance because passion will get us there. Passion, even more than determination, wins games. Passion wins championships.

It is in that place deep down inside that we find out who we truly are – a world so full of possibility that it seems impossible to get to. And it will escape most of us; that perfection will elude us forever.

“It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther and one fine morning …”

Passion for life, passion for anything, is priceless.

Adam Cahill is a senior history and American studies major. Contact him at acahill@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.