Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On Jumping and Catching

I've had two experiences that bordered on religious. The first happened when I was seven. I dreamt I was an adult, driving down a hill. I looked up saw God.

The second involved a frisbee.

I have seen a million things move through the air - footballs, shoes, sandwiches - and each has moved a different way. I have seen things soar through the air; I have seen things fly through the air; I have seen things push air out of the air while they barrel towards their intended victim.

It was winter. This was appropriate. Winter is a time for preciseness. We were at a hat tournament. It was cold. I was clearly the worst player on my team. Everyone resented being stuck with me, except for Joe. Joe was tall, and he had a beard and a beanie to protect against the icy wind. He was friendly. He coached me through my biggest mistakes. He was the only one who would throw to me.

After one point where I had made a good cut and dump, Joe came up to me, rubbing his raw hands together and smiling.

Good play. You got in and out of the cutting lane quick so I could make that pass to you.

Thanks, Joe.

It was a couple plays after that that it happened. One of the players on our team with a phenomenal backhand hucked it long to Joe. Joe followed it. His defender stayed tight. The disk slowed down, and both passed it. And then suddenly Joe planted a cleat into the frozen ground. He stopped short. His defender tried to stop himself but he slipped. Joe sprang up opposite to the direction that only milliseconds ago he had been sprinting. He caught the disk. His gaze dropped to the ground. He landed.

It was in that moment, though - the one right before the disk was in his hands - that I finally recognized a new verb. Things can soar and fly and barrel, sure, that's fine (if you're into that kind of thing). What disks do is different. Disks hang. Disks stop completely. Disks wonder if they left their oven on and pause for a second, contemplating whether they remembered to press the off button after they took out the brownies. Disks think their cell phone is ringing and pause to rummage through their backpack before they realize the noise is coming from somewhere else. Disks have a moment where they are simply not moving.

It was watching Joe pluck the hanging disk out of the air that winter morning when I realized jumping was something I didn't care about. Everyone watching the game wasn't looking at Joe's form - his stomach pulled in tight, his spine stretched to the breaking point. Instead, we were looking at his hands, his fingers, which seemed to give at the moment of contact, which instinctively changed to a backhand grip before he hit the ground, which were cold and dry and raw but clenching the disk with a sort of quick tightness. It was at that moment that I learned something important:

It's not the jump that matters. It's the catch.

****

This, along with On Jumping and On Catching, will be on Miscellaneous Serials as soon as I get the theme photo.

6 comments:

Carissa said...

ahh that was sooo good!

Jeff said...

Every good catch results from a bad throw.

The Muffin Man. said...

hummmm

nice picture

C.S. said...

Its not the catch that matters, its the jump:
How much of your heart and soul and mind you throw into your actions determines their success...or rather your perspective of their success

Anonymous said...

i froze when i read this

santind said...

It's all about the covert operations in the background of the game.