If you thought Joseph Kony was bad, boy will you hate me. I have the meanest job in the world.
By trade, I’m a video camera guy. I travel across the country filming college athletics. But if that’s all I did, you wouldn’t know me. You know me because I give you the images you can’t forget. I man the roving camera, so I can show you anything I want, really. I can get your coach dropping the f-bomb or the charming pat on the head he gives your favorite player after a bonehead play. My job gives me the freedom to show you what you need to see.
Most guys in my place pick the parents and fans jumping for joy. They go for the benchwarmers linking arms and then cut back to the guy on the free throw stripe as he sinks the front basket of a one-and-one. Everybody likes a winner. But that’s the easy part. You know that story already. You’ve seen it a million times.
Not me. I find the guys who know it’s over. The guys biting their jerseys, down 8 with 1:15 to go.
My camera cuts into your feed, showing you the trembling lip or watery eyes of a young man, the senior captain, at 21 years old the most experienced player on the court. He’s put everything he has into this program, and it’s not enough. The game is not over, but he knows it’s over. And he stands there, boxing out but really not boxing out because he can’t do anything but think about it ending. About how hard he’s worked and how it’s all over, here and now, in front of all these people.
And the horn sounds, a young, fresh-faced kid calls him off the court. It’s his last time. He didn’t want the standing ovation, didn’t need it. He’d rather die on that court than leave the game right now, but that’s not how it works. It’s not the symbolism that kills him, it’s the wave of recognition that this is it. There’s nothing you can do to save them now. It feels like surrender.
You need to see that guy. That’s my job. I show you the heartbreak you thought you could avoid. You need to see them suffering. You need to see what it feels like to lose it all and end up in a puddle of tears — lost, crushed, and empty.
You need to see what it feels like. You need to ask yourself — are you the guy who revels in someone else’s pain? Or are you the guy who can’t truly celebrate unless everybody gets a consolation prize? I want you to confront what kind of person you are.
Yeah, I make my living showing you what happens when someone tries so hard but still comes up short. I make them pay for losing a tough fought battle. For going down swinging. I make them pay for their honesty and for letting go. For caring so deeply that their eyes swell. I show you the tears that they can’t swallow.
I show the world that it’s over — not just the game, but everything that goes with it. The innocence, the team, the fans, the glory. Look around you. This moment is gone. It’s never coming back.
Can’t you just taste it? They call it bittersweet, but I prefer bittersalty — like how it tastes when blood, sweat, and tears combine. These kids are still so hungry and unsatisfied.
Look, I know you don’t like me. You think I’m a sadist. You think I enjoy this. You think it’s schadenfreude, it’s disgusting, and that I should be ashamed of myself. You think I should talk to someone about whatever psychological issue gives me this sick pleasure. I don’t do this for fun. I do this because it’s the counterpoint.
When you get your tenth place ribbon, I want you to know what it means.
There aren’t just winners. There are losers. There are people who, in that moment, would rather contract a chronic disease than walk off that field or that court for the last time. You need to see that. Your daughters and sons need to see that. We all need to know what it’s like to lose it all in the moment it matters most.
When it happens to you — and I do hope it happens to you — I want you to know you’re not the only one. I want you to know there’s something beautiful on the other side.