When the moment strikes, enjoy and appreciate it

by Dan Bauer

With the Christmas season upon us the word joy is a noun we often use to describe the emotions we experience. For children, that joy is most often released on Christmas morning after Santa has made his magical delivery. From Thanksgiving until that wonderful morning youngsters are challenged to be nice and not end up on the naughty list. As their anticipation builds, so does their excitement.

Few things can compare to a grateful child’s expression of joy on Christmas morning.

In the athletic arena there is a similar waiting period and process that precedes a feeling of joy that is every bit as wonderful as that perfect Christmas morning. It isn’t just any goal, strikeout, base hit, or three-pointer, but that critical concluding moment of a hard-fought victory. It can appear to be an individual act, but it surges through your entire team like an electrical current. It is a bursting emotional thermometer that explodes like fireworks.

Like a flip of a switch, or a lightning bolt, it is a beautiful and abrupt tidal wave of elation that ignites every neuron in your body. It is an emotional storm of sensations washing over your mind and body that few other events in life can duplicate.

For a moment everything in your universe is perfectly synced. That tidal wave cleanses away all that is troubling and delivers you absolute euphoria. Unlike witnessing the birth of your children that slowly consumes you like wading into deep water, this adrenalin rush comes without warning.  Every sport has an equivalent pinnacle, but few can compare to scoring a crucial goal, or milestone victory in a big game.

It is a microcosm of life that makes the athletic experience worth every setback, every challenge, every precious minute. It is the culmination of the struggles, the efforts, the perseverance of an entire team. You dream about these moments, but there is no guarantee they will happen. That unwavering belief in yourself and your team is always fighting back the constant uncertainty that sports harbor. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are the fraternal twins that cannot be separated. One cannot exist without each other.

Like all our significant life moments they are now all captured by a photo.  However, the emotion you exhibit in those life moments will seldom compare to the expressions captured moments after that goal or the buzzer that produces a landmark athletic achievement.

Just look at those faces.  It isn’t the type of joy you see every day.

The build up to the game, the pressure that mounts throughout the game, all of it I stored up inside of you until that moment when the actions of you and your teammates culminates in that “dagger” moment that determines the outcome. Like a busted dam, you are overcome with a virtual flood of pure jubilation.

It is an unhealthy sensation of supremacy, that is thankfully unsustainable. At that moment you believe you are invincible and feel a lethal measure of pride. It is a fleeting, look at me world moment, the ultimate journey into a comfort zone made possible by the struggle that precedes it. The kind of boastful pride that unchecked can turn into ugly arrogance and unsportsmanlike taunting in the hands of inexperienced or undisciplined athletes. You can be the catalyst that triggered the celebration or the supporting cast that helped make it happen. In the case of a goal, it is the result of many contributions from teammates. In hockey the actual goal scorer is the caboose of the scoring train. There is almost always a progression of events fueled by your teammates that led up to that puck crossing the goal line.

The athletes are the authors and owners of these game altering moments.  Vicariously fans and parents are mere renters of these emotions. The magnitude of the stage and the volume of eyes upon you intensifies the reaction. If you have enough of these to make a list, consider yourself fortunate and enjoy them all. Looking back and comparing these moments is as difficult as picking your absolute favorite song. Each of these achievements is so special because of the journey and the circumstances surrounding it. Like your children, you love each of them in your own way, but rating them quite impossible and quite frankly not worth the effort. Because at the moment of climax each event reaches a zenith of unforgettable emotions.

Few events in your lifetime allow you to express this unbridled joy quite like the athletic ride. When that moment strikes, enjoy and appreciate it, catalog it and most importantly share it with those who helped make it possible. Because the unbridled and unsustainable joy of this fleeting moment will dissipate as quickly as the water laid down by the Zamboni.

And when the sun comes up the next day, life will quickly remind you that there will be many new challenges ahead, that will require you to persevere through a similar process. And with it, more opportunities to unwrap the gift of achievement.

As an athlete, coach and parent I have witnessed many of these joyful moments and am grateful for them all. And as the calendar turns, hoping there will be more in my future. May this Christmas season bring you and your family the joy it was intended to stir in your heart. And may the new year bring you the joy each day can provide if we are willing to appreciate this precious and unpredictable journey we are on together.

Merry Christmas!

Dan Bauer is a free-lance writer, retired teacher & hockey coach in Wausau, WI.  You can contact him at  drbauer13@gmail.com