A poetic transition
“I was a boy who liked to write long before I was a man who liked to hit people.”
Those poignant words were spoken by Cleveland Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett on this past Tuesday’s episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks.
For those who are not familiar, Hard Knocks is a sports documentary series produced by NFL Films and HBO, in which a production crew follows a different National Football League team each season through training camp, while covering the team’s preparations for the upcoming season as well as the players’ personal and professional lives during the process.
One of the most popular and unique aspects of the series is the glimpse the viewers get into the man behind the player. It is a perspective of professional football players that are not shown nearly enough, but when it is, we are able to understand that underneath the helmet and pads, inside of the freakish athletic frame, there is just a man.
In this particular episode, Garrett reveals his love for poetry, which dates back to his relationship with his grandmother as well as a life-long admiration of Muhammad Ali. We don’t generally envision a six-foot-five-inch 275-pound 22-year-old athlete so comfortably discussing more sensitive and deeper passions outside of their perspective sport, but in one line, Garrett was able to essentially describe what a lot of adults tend to forget.
We were all children once. Before we became who are today, we were innocent, spirited, open-minded children, who loved to draw, sing, play music, dance, and write. Before society and peers began to mold us into what we believed we were supposed to become.
Upon hearing Garrett, I was instantaneously taken back to my childhood, and naturally associated those memories with what I see in my own son. Certain interests of mine seemingly faded away as I grew older, but for no real reason other than I stopped making them a priority in my life, and I had, like many, a feeling as if I needed to, to fit in. I believe often, as we develop from children into young adults, we begin to adapt to our surroundings. In some instances, this is very much a good thing, but in others, it causes us to lose part of who we are.
Despite making a career out of a violent, physically grueling, and astronomically competitive sport, Garrett continued to hold onto his poetry, and in turn, hold onto what makes him more than an athlete. There is no doubt in my mind that we can reclaim lost passions, but it does become more difficult the further away from them you become.
I remember moments in my own past where I felt as if my own interests, such as writing, drawing, and playing the piano, should take the back seat to what was popular or what friends were interested in. As I grew, so did the distance between myself and the things I used to love. What I have come to realize is, that remembering what you love before you love something else, is more important than whatever the actual activity or interest is. You cannot grow as a person if you bury your former self.
As I watch my son begin to really take interest in music, I continue to encourage him and introduce him to various genres. Granted he is only two and a half, he is already picking up on rhythms and wants to sing with the songs. As he grows I hope to teach him what took me 30 years to comprehend; You may like thousands of things in your life, but you will only ever love a few. If you abandon those few, you abandon yourself.
Myles Garrett is a fierce, aggressive, giant of an athlete, but at one time he was just a boy letting his deepest thoughts poetically flow through the pencil in his hand. In my opinion, what he does on the field will never have the significance, the longevity, or the substance as to what he puts on paper.
Following the words of those that surround you will only take away from who you are, however listening to the voice that is still that of a child within yourself will guide you with confidence, comfort, and security. It is better to grow upon the already strong vibrant foundation of your inner child in a seemingly poetic transition into adulthood than to replace yourself entirely with what you will always see as a stranger in the mirror.
Cody has been a sports reporter and writer for ten years. His inspiration and motivation have come from all walks of life, including his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.