It’s something we do all the time with sports; trying to extrapolate meaning from a big moment and figuring out how we can apply that particular lesson to our own daily lives, far removed from arenas or stadiums.
Sometimes the moment is enough without any context, like Jordan’s shot against Utah or Tiger at the 2019 Masters. And then sometimes it’s the context that gives the moment so much meaning. Marcus Paige bending time and space, not knowing that his moment will only last for 4.7 seconds; Tyson Fury, already knocked down by drug addiction and mental illness, shaking off a Deontay Wilder two-punch combination like it was a walk in the park.
Sometimes it’s about the moments we’ll always remember, but sometimes it’s about the ones we don’t. Remember Jermaine Kearse’s catch to bring the Seahawks to the goal line in Super Bowl XLIX?
So when I look back on all the moments I’ve had at The Daily, one stands out. And it’s not one that most of us will remember, because it didn’t happen in the thick of a game and it didn’t represent a moment of greatness. It still has immense meaning to me.
On the night Fury was rewriting the laws of life and death in Los Angeles, Northwestern was playing for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis. It had been an improbable run, but it was about to come to an end. Ohio State, loaded with three future top-six picks, ran over our beloved Wildcats and booked a one-way ticket to Pasadena.
After the handshakes, the guys in purple made their way to the locker room, obviously disappointed and dejected. Right before the tunnel, one player stopped and looked back at the middle of the field, at the red-and-white confetti that littered the field. It was Clayton Thorson.
I remember watching this from the Lucas Oil Stadium press box. One moment, looking back at the field. Maybe he was picturing what the field would’ve looked like if the confetti were purple instead of red. Maybe he was savoring the precious few seconds he had left of a magical run to this spot. Maybe he wanted to remember what it felt like to be this close to something. Maybe it was motivation.
That might make it seem like this is some dreary, sad moment to be clinging on to in my mind. But consider this.
Maybe he was looking at the field, not mourning the run to the Rose Bowl but celebrating everything it took to get there. Gazing at Dwayne Haskins and Chase Young but thinking about the 98-yard drive to tie the game against Nebraska, the battle against Notre Dame or the dominating win over Wisconsin that had brought them all to this place in this moment. Maybe it was about all those things.
It’s about what it means to work so hard for something only to be denied from it and have to watch someone else celebrating everything it took to reach that moment.
We’re all looking at the field right now from our own vantage points, maybe not alone but socially distanced nonetheless. We’re trying to reflect on the last four years, watching something we don’t want to see but trying to replace that image with the memories that preceded it. We only have a moment to do it before we have to walk off the perpetual field and into the next part of our lives.
So as I try to say goodbye to The Daily, I’m thinking of the people I got to work with and the things I got to do. I might not get to celebrate on the field, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a moment to picture it. Or maybe this was all just a ploy to remind everyone of how insane that Marcus Paige shot was. Either way.