Nobody on the Kauai High School football team has experienced what they’re about to experience Saturday. The Red Raiders made it to the state title football game back in 2009, but that was an entire generation ago in high school terms, as well as two head coaches ago. While the program’s history surely resonates with the current players, they haven’t made that tunnel walk into Aloha Stadium with a Division II championship on the line.
I’m a little bit jealous because as we get older, the number of times we can see a future event and know for certain it will become a lasting memory become fewer and fewer. Most of our lasting memories as adults come as surprises, which can be just as or even more fulfilling, but they lack that sense of anticipation most of the Red Raider players are probably feeling today and will be feeling tomorrow.
Sometimes the term “glory days syndrome” can be thrown around and steeped in negativity. It isn’t healthy to constantly look back and consider days gone by as our peak, but it’s not unhealthy to remember young accomplishments and experiences as clearly as if they had just occurred last week.
It’s been a full year since I was back in my New Jersey home town for a visit and playing some Thanksgiving hoops with my high school buddies, but I can remember the exact spot on the floor from where I hit the game-winning shot (Though we did lose two out of three).
It’s been 15 full years since I ran the torch for my camp’s Color War team, the final event of the Apache Relay. I can still remember running every inch of the full-camp sprint, carrying the flame at my side as the whole camp was up and cheering as I appeared over the hill and crossed the finish line for the win (Our Blue Earthquakes did go on to beat the White Tornadoes that week).
It’s been 20 full years since I had a game-tying single with the bases loaded and two outs in the final inning of a little league game to complete a six-run comeback for the Tigers. I can still remember peeking out my left eye as I ran the first-base line and seeing the sharp chopper scoot between the third baseman and shortstop (Though the game was called 10 minutes later due to darkness with our comeback nullified because we couldn’t complete the bottom half of the inning. The Cardinals may have gotten the W in the standings, but they know who really won that day).
These memories we make stay with us, regardless. Regardless of how many more we make, regardless of what we go on to do with our lives, regardless of the initial outcome. My memories of the wins are just as clear as my memories of the defeats (Except in poker; in poker, the wins are indistinct and the losses are crystal clear. I’m sure some of you would agree).
While both Kauai and Kaiser probably think that Saturday’s outcome will define how they remember their experience, it won’t. Yes, they’ll each regret a loss and savor a win, but the way to make sure the memory is a good one either way is to devour the experience. Use all your senses as you walk through the tunnel. Look at each other’s faces on the sidelines before the game. Be completely in the moment.
Like I said earlier, the days we know are going to be lasting memories grow scarcer and scarcer through the years. So rather than being nervous, be excited. Rather than being overwhelmed, be appreciative. This is going to be one of those “glory days” recollections at some point, so regardless of the scoreboard, make it a memory you’re proud to remember so vividly.
Hana hou, Kauai!