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Credit: Sydney Curran

I remember when I first watched your white net snap taut from a goal scored. Seeing the plus one on the scoreboard felt just like that rush I feel when the music is perfect and I row into top gear. I knew I’d return for the next few matches at home. Even when the evening trains would rumble across the bridge behind Rhodes Field, and their terrific chug would drown out announcements of player substitutions that I really needed to hear, I was delighted I was the one to be there — soles suctioned to metal bleachers, fingers chilled stiff, and eardrums blitzed by bursts of crowd noise — to witness and write about it all.

I loved my postgame sprints across the field to the home bench, holding two phones on record just in case one wouldn’t be enough to catch every word of my interviews. I remember how the beginnings felt so unfamiliar, meeting and asking questions to names I'd already scrutinized from stat sheets and rosters. But any nerves sank when I remembered how much fun it was to talk about you.

I loved watching all the ways you could move. Heels anchored into grass and how spines would pivot, or squeaks of sneakers on glossy hardwood below century-old Palestra rafters. I loved how it would all happen so fast. A baton pass as fluid as turning a page of a book, or the ferocious swings of rackets and sticks and bats to mash a bulleting ball. I sought the best words to capture you on the page.

You showed no fear and I wanted to feel that way, too. So I plunged into your momentum and kept up. I studied score sheets and rosters like homework. I squinted across courts and fields; memorized the numbers on players’ backs until I could predict the timings of coaches’ substitutions. I loved catching you off-guard to hear my favorite response: “That’s a great question.” And when anyone would begin to explain to me the game I knew I loved, I learned to straighten my shoulders and interrupt.

I spent some years matching your pace. In return, you drew some of the best words out of me. Watching my bylines stack was a thrill I’d share constantly with home, and it felt unreal to think how many people would read my work the next day. But you are rapid. Your routines kept rolling, and my writing grew mechanic. Obligations heaped. Your schedules began to weigh like an anchor on my joy, and what I had feared most would happen finally caught up to flatten my spirit: I grew tired.

But I wasn’t tired of you. I will always love being obsessed with you. ESPN still overwhelms my notifications, and I’ll hopefully watch you in a London stadium soon. Maybe I grew tired of knowing you so hard. Making my living in this city became an urgent test, and I rationed my time to be able to live. I didn’t want you to feel like work, too.

I wondered what kind of writer you wanted me to be. What it takes to be the first to break news, to understand every sport as much as my favorite, to learn generations of legendary names I didn’t grow up with. I watched those around me do it excellently. I wondered if we all shared the same amount of hours. But reality had crashed into me like a wave, and when I finally learned how to keep my chin above the surface, I found no energy left to write you in my best words anymore.

I remember on another sunny afternoon at work, while rolling crates of silverware and counting down my hours on the clock, I watched you through a dim, cracked phone screen showing the 2022 World Cup. At every goal scored, I could hear the roar of cheers from the opposite side of the kitchen pass — occasionally delayed, but nevertheless electric, even through the brunch noise. Here was that delight, again, in a place I didn’t expect. I thought about the stories I had wanted to share when I first began writing. And watching you through a smaller screen, I wondered if my distance from your bigger headlines demanded something much greater than what I could give — a distance I wasn’t confident I could close. 

So call me lazy or stale, unambitious at most. But I felt happy when I went to a soccer game with nothing to write. This wasn’t work, but a passion enjoyed. No deadline to race, no weaving of nuanced questions for interviews, nor a fiery stance on zonal marking versus man-to-man to prove I know what I’m talking about. I stood in the stands as just a fan of you. I rooted for a side, ignored the names of away team substitutions, and the delight of you returned.

I couldn’t become that trailblazer you craved. But now I’ll settle for the gallery afar, watching you continue to flourish for your favorite kind of crowd. So let me flourish, too. I won’t give all my words to you anymore — even if everything about you seemed so ideal in those evening hours, when the sun would set over the Schuylkill as the timeclock inched down, and the players on the field continued to just run, chasing you and one another into the back of that white net, and I was the one there to write about it all. You were a thrill unmatched, even as my own feet stood still. So perhaps I'll return to you sometime soon, when I've grown a little more in myself, and my view from the stands calls again to spill out into words.

ESTHER LIM is a College senior studying English with a concentration in creative writing from Georgia. She served as a sports editor on the 138th board of The Daily Pennsylvanian. Her email is