The first impression it made on me was as a symbol of terror. I did not know then that it was a sports equipment worn for protection. I had never seen the sport in which it was worn to begin with, so how could I have known? So I do not think I can be blamed for being fearful of it, thinking that it was a gear commonly worn by all serial killers to indicate that they are coming to get you… yeah, silly thought, but I was very young!
I finally found it in its appropriate usage when I moved abroad to my second homeland. But because it was so modernized it did not resemble its old self, and my fear was not elicited. Instead, I was instantly fascinated by the sport and especially the players in the position who got to wore the equipment.
There was one player in particular who became my childhood hero. At first, I felt a sense of closeness to him (though it was completely one-way) because he got drafted by the team in the town I moved to in the year I moved in, being picked out from a distant place where people spoke a different language. But I started to really look up to him when he came up from the farm team a couple of years later to fill some big shoes.
Maybe it was his work ethic.
The team was not a strong one when he joined, but its fans were not patient enough to give him time to grow – they expected quick fix and demanded no less than his best. And he gave it! He must have been under tremendous pressure, but he remained collected and composed and went about his job as the last line of defense in a very matter-of-fact way. He became a great team-player, always sharing credits when they defended their wins, but never blaming anyone else when they could not.
Maybe it was his attitude.
He played a style which some critics disapproved, but rather than ignoring them and do nothing or listening to them and change his style, he paid attention to the weaknesses that they pointed out and worked diligently to minimize them, all the while maximizing his strengths that they underrated. He kept his confidence in himself, and through it, was able to earn confidence of his teammates.
And maybe it was his looks… well, not maybe, definitely!
I still believe to this day that he had the coolest-looking equipment of all time! They were in total coordination from head to toe and well designed to match his nickname. And together with the way he played, he made it all look easy, even when the opposing team was all over him. There were many nights when he looked like a wizard working miracles, having everyone – opponents as well as teammates, and of course, the fans – wrapped around his magical finger.
I was very fortunate to have someone so close by but was so far ahead of me as a man that I could constantly look up to and follow in footsteps!
There was a period of time when I lost track of him, but I have caught a glimpse of him in action in a couple of alumni games wearing his cool equipment, and I now follow him from afar in his new career coaching young hopefuls of the same sport… and I feel a sense of closeness to him once again (though still completely one-way), as I am passionate about the growth of young minds through education.
After all these years, I find myself still looking up to him for his work ethic to give his everything to his team and the community, and for his attitude to give everyone on his team equal opportunity even if his coaching style receives criticisms sometimes, as well as for looking like a good mentor to the youngsters giving stern but loving guidance.
He has made a deep and lasting impression on me, and his equipment will forever be a symbol of admiration in me! I feel he will always be so close and so far away, making it irresistible for me to keep following in his footsteps…