The other day it hit me.
I sat in my friend’s living room on Sunday afternoon completely emerged in game one of the first round of the NBA playoffs between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The atmosphere, the competition, the speed of the game and the chase to win the NBA Finals had my full attention glued to the TV. Then it hit me. The biggest dream that I have ever had, to win a championship, will never come true.
But, I’m over it.
I can remember being so frustrated in Little League. Growing up I wasn’t the best Little Leaguer. I can probably count on one hand the amount of balls I hit out of the infield.
While my friends spent their summers playing AAU baseball, I spent them at Winslow Park in Warwick, Rhode Island with my sisters as they both played competitive fastpitch softball. My whole childhood it ate at me that I seemed to be the one Freeman that wasn’t somewhat athletic.
Then high school came. Well, things didn’t change so much. I ran cross country as a freshman at Bishop Hendricken and literally came in last place in every race except one. In that one race, one of my teammates got lost on the back course of Goddard Memorial State Park so he became the one person to lose to Stone Freeman. I’m sure that kid has left that accolade off his resume.
Some things did change in high school. I became exposed to sports broadcasting and writing. I wrote and provided play-by-play calls for the then brand new Hawks Sports Network, a blog based network for Hendricken students to get their first crack at sports talk, broadcasting and writing.
However, something wasn’t the same. I did a lot. Like a lot. I spent every Friday night during the football seasons inside press boxes across the state. I was a student manager for the basketball team. I even had my whole weekly talk show.
It was a blast and my peers, teachers, family and friends respected and appreciated what I was doing. But it wasn’t the real thing. I wasn’t hitting home runs or three-point buckets. I didn’t score touchdowns. It still wasn’t what I wanted.
I’ve never told anybody this but some won’t be surprised when I say it, not being able to successfully play sports is the biggest personal disappointment of my life. Believe it or not having just put that in writing has lifted a weight off my shoulders.
But suddenly, I’m over it. As a junior in college, the disappointment has just become opportunity. I’m over it because I have learned the biggest and most important lesson I could teach myself. Sometimes being denied what you love exposes you to something you can’t live without.
I realized this as I watched the Celtics game on Sunday. Instead of wanting to be Jayson Tatum as he soared through the open paint and slammed home a one-handed dunk, I wanted to be the man that said, “Here’s Tatum. He drives and…oh my! Jayson Tatum slams the ball home with his left hand. A rim-rattling dunk that has left the Garden in hysteria!”
That’s now the dream.
If I were an All-State athlete or even a bench-warmer for a AAU basketball team I would have never found this incredible world of sports storytelling. Whether it be play-by-play broadcasting, breaking down a play or writing a column, I am in love with this career.
Instead of taking extra batting practice I do extra game prep before a broadcast. Instead of arriving to the arena and lacing up my sneakers, I adjust my tie and pocket square.
Here’s the reality. If I could go back I would do it all over again. Every ounce of disappointment. It taught me more about sports and do a greater degree about myself than anything I could ever imagine. Greater disappoint will be on the horizon. I don’t expect for everything to go away. However, for now, I am at ease.
I’ll never win an NBA Championship, a World Series title, a Vince Lombardi Trophy, a Stanley Cup, a green jacket or even a Kentucky Derby. But, to the 12-year-old Stone Freeman who is hitting wiffle balls at Winslow Park and to the 16-year-old Stone Freeman who is inside the press box at Hayden Stadium on Friday nights during the fall, keep going, dude. The disappointment is worth it. It’s all going to shape you into a better version of yourself tomorrow. That’s the greatest trophy you can take home.