I often find it hard to describe to people who don’t really play a sport the absolute joy you can get from excelling at athletics. I should have known that all I needed to do was to point to Kirby Puckett, to how he smiled when he played, to how evident it was that he was thoroughly enjoying himself, as an example of the joy of the game.
The joy was evident when watching him play because you could feel his joy through his play. I have seen Barry Bonds hit home runs and it is an awesome sight; but watching Kirby round the bases after hitting the winning home run in Game Six? Pure joy.
It is so sad that Puck has died.
I’ve often thought that the notion of the athlete lends itself to tragedy. Sport is a young person’s game and athletic skill can only be maintained as long as the body allows it. But the body eventually degenerates and no matter how well an athlete cares for their body there will come a day when it fails him.
For someone for whom their sport had been their entire life since they were literally five years old; to have that joy taken away so suddenly like it was for Puck, that’s tragic. It’s tragic for the athlete because there is nothing quite like making your body perform those athletic feats that so few people can perform. It’s tragic as well because if, like Puck, the sport was their life, well, what is their life without the sport?
And for that reason it was all the more amazing that Puckett handled his tragedy with such grace and good will–don’t cry for me, he said.