Of all the sports clichés that I dislike—and there are more than a boatload of them--the one that bothers me most is “Act like you’ve been there before.” Someone inevitably makes this claim each time a home run hitter celebrates his ball going over the fence and each time a wide receiver makes a one handed end zone catch and celebrates wildly. That is, every time a player does what he or she is supposed to do, and takes a moment to celebrate it, someone will ask them—or at least ask the player on their television--to act as if it’s a routine day at the accounting firm.
This phrase has never made sense to me, and it makes less sense the more often I think about it.
On the emotional side, it doesn’t make sense because I’m the type of fan, the type of person, who simply enjoys big emotions and larger-than-life personalities. I want players to celebrate wildly, to physically show how much fun it is to feel like they are the greatest, if only for the moment. I love big personalities and big moments befitting those personalities. I’ve never like the accountant approach to sports in which a player is supposed to act as if their great moments are mundane. Hell, when I have a good day of teaching, or write a good line in an essay, I jump up and down and shout. Why shouldn’t the athlete do so as well?
While I understand that we all have different likes and dislikes and that my preference for bold, loud figures is as contingent as some people’s preference for workman like sports heroes, it’s not on emotions or preference alone that this claim makes little sense to me.
No, there is indeed an experiential logic to my preference. If I’m pulling for a team, if I’m coaching a team, I want my players to think scoring, winning, victory is one of the greatest of all possible states of being, one of the most sublime experiences. I want my players to think of nothing besides that wonderful feeling they get when they score, win, defeat others. When a player has one of those experiences, I don’t want them to act as if “they’ve been there before.” I want them to act as if they’ve finally gotten what they want, and they like it so much that they’ll work hard to have this experience again.
Think about your favorite experiences, your favorite life moments. Whether it’s a favorite food, sex, moments of sublime spirituality, or the first experience of spring, do you really want these favorite moments to be experienced “as if you’ve been there before”? Does your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend want your most intimate moments to seem simply like “you’ve been there before.” No. Emphatically no. NO NO NO.
Indeed, if these are the moments you desire, why not celebrate their fulfillment? And get yourself ready to seek fulfillment again.
So, go ahead: Act “as if you’ve been there before.” But know that, in my mind, this means you should be jumping for joy, screaming with pleasure, showing me that this is, for the moment, the greatest experience of your life.