I can imagine how they must’ve felt walking into the colosseum in Rome. Putting on their armor, getting their minds ready for battle. And hearing that crowd! I know that roar. I know what it does to your mind…to your body. I know how it can capture your soul. It’s like a bolt of lightning transmitting power – striking the top of your skull coursing through your veins down to the bottoms of your feet – Up and down and up and down. Williams Brice would vibrate in chaotic harmony. Flooding my system with kinetic energy as I poetically sifted and slashed and maneuvered through the defenders. Playing the role of an alchemist- with my body as the command center. Tuning the bass, treble, and volume of that roar with every move I make. Transcending into an alternate reality where pain ceases to exist. 80,000 voices fuel your legs. 80,000 voices screaming, “Lattimore… Lattimore…. Lattimore”.
Ecstasy (MDMA) or better known as molly is a psychedelic drug with effects that typically include increased energy and pleasure. According to the National Institute of Health the drug releases high levels of serotonin and the high can last for up to six hours. I’ve never done ecstasy (only THC) but there is no way it could be better than what I was experiencing every Saturday in Williams Brice. You can’t get any higher. And if you thought I was high on the field, off the field I stayed in the clouds.
The south, an environment where the mania and craze that surrounds college football turns you into a mythical being. A place where you could walk into a grocery store to grab one item. But by the nature of your societal conditions, it transforms into an autograph signing. Or you walk into a restaurant and by the end of your meal the whole place has taken a picture. You see, the game is to pretend like you’re humble. The game is to pretend like it isn’t affecting you. The game is to be what others expect you to be. At least that’s what I thought.
I loved it. I loved being able to make someone’s day. It gripped me. This is what everybody wants right? To be loved? You get a tingle inside your stomach knowing that you are the man everywhere you go. In my younger days, I would go to certain places simply because I knew that it would maximize my attention. Always standing in a spot where I was most visible, not waiting in line, rarely pulling out my wallet. Exclusivity simply because of my name. I was playing monopoly and buying up all the properties. I was treated supreme – and greeted like a King all because I could run the ball.
I do a meditation (prayer) practice called Tonglen. It is a compassion practice where you can take on the heaviness of another human being and send them healing. I pray for those individuals in our world whose face is known and seen globally. I marvel at how someone like Lebron navigates the world on a daily basis because he never knows what he’s going to get. Any interaction at any given time with a random person could become extremely emotional; or better yet, dangerous. He faces this every time he steps outside his door. I conduct this meditation in many situations but in particular for all of the young athletes who receive a lot of attention. A young adolescent brain with a few things on his mind; sex, porn, and football. Most of us aren’t equipped to handle the gigantic responsibility that comes with being known. I pray that they find joy in their path. I pray for discernment. I pray they find self control in the midst of their hectic lifestyle. I pray that when they look in the mirror they see more than an athlete. I pray they go find some stillness and detox from the roar.
I do this because with every high, you must come down. It’s easy to get lost in that trance and take it for reality. It’s easy to let your ego take the wheel. It’s so easy to wrap your whole identity around what you do because people tell you how great you are everywhere you go. The only message you’ve heard your entire life is your greatness. But, what happens when you can no longer suit up? What happens when the camera cuts off? You don’t know anything else so how do you transition? What if you were never taught any other skill? What if you were only recognized when you ran the ball? I’ll tell you what happens. You’ll be searching and seeking relentlessly and viciously to fill that hole. More validation, more approval, more attention, more applause, more……. love. And even if they fuck up, even if they make a mistake. I pray they know that they aren’t a mistake. I pray they get back up.