My Losing Season by Pat Conroy:
All of my teammates remember what happened next—all of them. I sat by my locker for a brief moment, then fell apart at the far end of my boyhood, at the exact spot where it connected to my hesitant, unconfident young manhood. The first sob caught me by surprise and the second one was so loud that it didn’t seem to come from me at all. I wept as I had never wept before in public. I wept out of sheer heartbreak, unable to control myself. I was lost in the overwhelming grief I felt at losing my game, losing basketball as a way to make my way define myself in a world that was hostile and implacable. How do you say goodbye to a game you love more than anything else? What was I to do with a sunrise when I didn’t get up thinking about going to a gym to work on my jump shot? What does a boy do when they take his game away? In front of boys I had suffered with, I sobbed and I couldn’t help it. I removed my jersey and put my face into the number 22 and my sweat mingled with my tears in the sacramental moment, when I surrendered my game to the judgments of time. I gave it up, gave basketball up, gave my game up, the one I played so badly and adored so completely. I gave it up in Charlotte, in emptiness, in sorrow, in despair that I played it so badly yet in gratitude for what the game had given me. Each one of my teammates squeezed my shoulder as they passed on the way to the shower room. Basketball had rescued me from the malignant bafflement of my boyhood. It had lifted me up and given me friends that I got to call teammates. The game gave me moments where I brought crowds of strangers to their feet, calling out my name. The game allowed me to be carried off the court in triumph. The game had allowed me to like myself a little bit, and at times the game had even allowed me to love the beaten, ruined boy I was.