Annie-thing Goes: Sports, or the rise and fall of a vicarious season

For Berkeley, fall means rebirth. Fall means watching the nighttime airplanes loom closer until they’re swallowed up by the city lights, delivering students back home for another few months. Fall means a clamorous late-night din followed by quiet morning strolls through campus. Fall means something that is at once leisurely and exhilarating. Fall means a new chance to hit the ground running after a lazy, endless summer.

But Sports knows differently. Sports doesn’t rest on its laurels or slow down the pace — not for one second, and certainly not for one season. Because Sports never took a break.

Sports doesn’t rest; Sports barely waits. Sports worked all summer long. Sports traversed the globe to converge upon London and electrify the world for two breakneck weeks. Sports battled for blood and guts and glory. Sports grabbed hold of that bronze, silver or gold medal and reveled in its power.

And Sports still managed to stay close to home. Sports threw pitches that smoked and uncovered scandals that stank. Sports lived and breathed games-back and trade deadlines. Sports kept up a deceptively plodding stride through the dog days of summer, but don’t think for one second that Sports can’t heat up in time for playoffs.

Fall isn’t rebirth for something like Sports. Fall is more of the same — it’s just kicked up a few more notches. Fall is the point when, for now or never, next year becomes this year. It is what Sports stews over and waits for when it pauses to catch its breath. Fall is a kickoff return followed by a slam into the boards and topped off by a walkoff homer, just because. Fall gives way to a huddle, a halftime speech, a heartbeat. Fall preludes a team united under a common cause, against a common foe. Fall injects into Sports an incessant thirst to prove, a need to win. Sports can never quench something like that.

Sports always boils down to barest simplicity. Every emotion is intense and irreversible. Drive. Power. Hatred. Success. Sports knows it all. Elation and downfall and redemption all felt as if for the first time, the only time.

Sports grabs hold of all this and refuses to let go, even when the fight is suffocating and the hill too steep. Even when the scoreboard flashes a loss that can’t be reversed with one Hail Mary pass, Sports hangs on. Because there is always one more game to play. There is the moment of silence, the calm before the storm. Sports develops this tunnel vision to always look ahead to the next biggest hurdle. Like this, Sports never plateaus.

Sports might wake up at five a.m. for practice, then remain too focused throughout the morning to notice the sun has risen. Sports shivers on a pool deck as steam wafts up from the water’s surface. Sports shifts its feet on a grassy field and feels the crunch of frost beneath its cleats. Sports takes a dive — any dive. Into the water, into the dirt, always for the ball, for the next wide-open shot.

Sports juggles life as if it’s a half-lived dream. Sports goes through the motions until the moment it can don its uniform, run out into the arena and drink up the hype. Even after all this time, Sports still gets butterflies in the moments leading up to the first play.

This is what Sports lives for. The rise and fall of games and scores and opponents. The domino effect of what happens when everything falls back into place.

Fall might mean rebirth for the rest of Berkeley. But for Sports, fall is simply the return to what makes sense.

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