This is the end of the Western Kentucky-Drake game from last Friday. You'll notice, after Ty Rogers hits that shot, that every WKU player and fan in that arena completely loses their shit. Whatever concern they had about blowing a 16-point second half lead, whatever thoughts they may have about their next potential opponent - it's lost in that moment. They're practically jumping through the rafters. I watched this game on a treadmill at the gym. When Rogers hit that shot, I let out an audible yelp. I wasn't the only person in the room to do so. I had completely lost track of myself and my surroundings at that moment, and gotten caught up in seeing that shot, and seeing the total fucking mayhem it produced. I was INTO IT. They were INTO IT. We were all totally fucking INTO IT.


It's a paradox of the human experience that, while we possess the unique gift of introspection, we are at our very best when we can phase out that self-awareness entirely and allow the present to overcome us. It's the very definition of passion. I wish I could live every second of my life like this, but that isn't feasible.

I have a two-year-old, and the joy of having a two-year-old is that they possess no self-awareness of any kind. When they're jumping, they're all about the jumping. When they're dancing, they're all about dancing. And when they're pooping their pants, they're all about the pooping. There's a purity of the moment within them, one I experience in my adulthood far too infrequently.


I am getting better at figuring out what causes something like that to happen to me, and doing more of whatever that is: watching Bob Mould tear shit up, eating my favorite food, knocking boots, reveling in that amazing buzzer beater, etc. In fact, that's probably the most important part of living, to seek out those unique passions of yours, and to try and experience them as often as possible.

There's a great article in last week's SI about John Thompson III, and how he learned to coach both from his old man, and from his college coach, Pete Carril. At one point in the article, Thompson makes this observation:

"I've been taught that that's what the game is, the situation before you. Our job is to teach. Their job is to figure it out, together. If we're going through that process, there's no time to get worried."


In other words, Thompson has figured out that if he and his players are focused and intent right at that exact moment in the game, everything else becomes unimportant. The outcome of the game you're playing should be irrelevant to you as you're playing it. Long-term (and even short-term) goals are pointless because you spend too much time thinking about the end result when you need to be HERE, your mind and body completely dedicated to the act of playing basketball.

This is something pretty much every coach tries to teach. It's why you hear the phrase "one game at a time" over and over again. And really, coaches like Thompson and Bill Belichick don't mean one game at a time, or even one play at a time. They want something beyond focus from their players. They want them to live inside the game, to have no awareness of anything but the present moment.


They want them to play the game the way Bob plays the guitar, or the way Daniel Day-Lewis plays a role, or the way Tiger Woods plays golf, or the way you and I have sex (not together, unless, you know, you're cool with the idea). They want the passionate present to take over. Because, when it does, THAT is when you see great athletes get into The Zone and play at an almost supernatural level.

I remember when they interviewed Michael Jordan after he dropped 35 in the first half against the Blazers in the Finals. He talked about just seeing the hoop and nothing else. He was so fucking dialed in that nothing else mattered. And why should it?


This isn't something you can just do. I played football for ten years. And I sucked. And the reason I sucked, apart from being lazy and having no athletic ability whatsoever, was because I couldn't just settle down and play within the moment. I was too busy wondering how I looked (fat), or what it would be like if we won, or what it would be like if we lost, or how I could get into Katie Johnson's bikini briefs. Then the whistle would blow, and I was on my ass. I liked the idea of playing football. But I lacked the passion to cast introspection aside, let go, and just go fucking PLAY it. Which means I spent ten years wasting my time.

So it's hard to get to that level of passionate focus. But I also think we live in an age of heightened self-awareness, where people are discouraged from living in the moment. Letting go of yourself means you also risk making an ass of yourself, and that's a risk many of us aren't willing to take (myself included). The reason I don't like "American Idol" is because each performance is so utterly calculated, each note and camera angle meticulously planned out beforehand. You rarely see a performer there just forget his or herself and get fucking INTO IT. If you did, you'd get Otis Redding singing "I've Been Loving You (Too Long)" at the Monterey Pop Festival:

Or Gustavo Dudamel conducting Mahler's 3rd symphony:

Do either of those exceedingly skilled men give off the impression that they give a shit what they look like when they're doing what they're doing? Nope. Otis is singing the way songs should be sung. Gustavo is conducting the way orchestras should be conducted. The way love should be made. The way sports should be played. And the way life should be lived. They have the ability. But, more importantly, they're INTO IT. I have to live like this more often.


Maybe I should eat a bagel every day.