Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

3:33 Sports Short #13 // Heroes

by Benjamin Blickle

In the cement tunnel to the parking lot, David Bowie’s “Heroes” piped in through the stadium speakers.  Even at seventeen, I didn’t think we’d have been heroes if we’d won the state soccer championship.  But an oblique bolt of clarity struck through the cumulus of loss.  I remembered how much I liked that song, how the lyrics went deeper and weirder than the title or the chorus would let on.  Dolphins, royalty, love, ramparts, alcoholism.  All the beautiful strangeness would forever be overshadowed by our 4-0 defeat.  Why couldn’t they have just played Queen like they always do?

A couple decades later I still cannot hear that song without smelling shin guards and wet grass, without a stone growing in my throat.  We could be heroes.  If not heroic, we could have done something permanent.  They would have flown a maroon-and-gold banner from the rafters of our gymnasium.  All the items in that last sentence sound impossibly corny and I still want them.  Skidding on cleats down the cool concrete exit, realizing I’d played my last meaningful game, I knew Bowie would haunt me forever and at seventeen, I was right.  Just for one day.

When that song started playing on a morning TV show a few weeks ago, I felt the emotions of a gutted teenage goalkeeper as instinctively as mouthwatering, saw the soccer balls painted on my girlfriend’s cheek, smudged with tears.  Then the caption informed us that Bowie had died and I refused to believe the boldface.  Bowie’s personas had made the endurance of banners look threadbare.  The people crying on television knew nothing about my game, but for a moment we were in sync and I’d highjacked the outpouring.  I still couldn’t listen to “Heroes” without a jab of loss.  Sometimes, with age, we poke old wounds with a melancholy thrill.

Categories: