Imagine yourself in front of 18,000 people in a tightly packed arena. You have been waiting for this opportunity throughout your entire life. The moment you get in, crowds start screaming and rarely get quiet during your three-hours performance. Most of these people are friendly, but some are not. You are going to do everything to leave a good impression and make them chant your name in a wild excitement. Your actions are rewarded with immediate oooh and ahhh, and it may or may not remind you of reaction to some other activities. Your fans’ ecstatic reaction to your moves gives you a feeling of high without any foreign substance injected into your veins. For you, nothing can go wrong, you are invincible and feel on cloud nine. But roughly every tenth of your moves is not good enough, and then a red light blasts behind you and a siren with a loudness of a maritime fog horn signals your failure. It’s deafening, but for you, it sounds even louder, since you are the reason for the petrifying, piercing sound letting you know that you were at fault. Then you have a choice. Either dwell on the mishap, blame yourself and hang your head low. Or forget as soon as it happened, shake the nightmare off, have a drink of water and go to your next moves. The only thing you know that you cannot go back and fix it. All this when the people in the arena, and everybody over the world for that matter, are watching. You also are aware that the world has special suits exclusively delegated to observe, scrutinize and record your every move in a Big Book.
Outfits on your event remind that of the ancient battles in a Roman arena. In those times, there were scantily dressed and lightly armed, swift and expressive gladiators, having only a basic sword and maybe a fishnet to use in the deadly battles. They were fighting the others, heavily armed and scrupulously protected, but poorly mobile adversaries. In the Roman arenas, the light-weights usually won. They dragged the bigger opponents off their feet and finished them up with a small dagger thrust to the base of the neck, where the aorta is poorly protected and crosses close to the skin surface. They called the dagger misericordia, for mercy. Here, in your arena, you are the one who is heavily armed and padded. Your helmet is bigger, your armor thicker and your weapon wider. And in a head-to-head confrontation, you are better. You win the battles most of the time, roughly in nine of the ten confrontations. So when the lightweights win, they celebrate like kids. Maybe because it doesn’t happen frequently. When you win, you are expected to be composed, like nothing ever happened. No celebration. Not even the acknowledgment of the adoring fans. But deep inside you boil and want to scream ‘yesssss!’ The same time, your demeanor is quiet, ‘not a big deal, I constantly do it, it’s another day in the office.’
Your workload is much more intense. You stay in the arena for the entire three hours. The lightweights can’t take the intensity and have to rest every one minute or so. Because their wins are so rare, even you tend to understand their outbursts of celebrations.
When you are winning, everything goes your way, and you are on top of the world. But what to do when you just lost the battle and in the aftermath you have to explain to the porcupine of microphones stuck in your face why did you lose and how do you feel, when all you want to do is to take a shower, go home and listen to good music. Besides, they pay your salary. Then they ask again how come you just got beaten. So you tell them politely, ‘I’m not used to losing,’ or ‘it sucks.’ But deep inside, you scream the obscenity.
The pressure is high. The awards, including monetary, are exorbitant. The price of success is also high. You start not only early in life, often when you are five – six years old, but also early in the day, quite often at six – seven in the morning. You travel a lot, practice a lot and sacrifice a lot. All this for a chance to enter the arena with 18,000 screaming people ahead of your team.
The pressure on you is almost as heavy as on Justin Bieber. But he is 22-years old and older than you! How do you handle the rollercoaster of the public reactions? Undulations of fame? At that young age? They don’t teach that in high school, and you are often too young for college.
When you know you will come out on the arena for the first time, you proudly notify your father and your mother. They, as you, waited for that time countless years. As you, they are also part of the selected few, the elite, and their friends know it. For your parents, that’s the coronation moments, the ultimate payment for years of commitment, perseverance, sleepless nights, long travels and carrying your bags. Not even mentioning the monetary expenditure. They also know that somewhere in the arena are the parents of another warrior, also first time in the arena. When their child is winning, his parents are jumping up and down waving their arms, and your parents know that’s not good news for them. Your father and your mother just have to preserve their dignity, bite their lips and hold their heads high.
You soon find out, that after winning the big battle, you are the hero, the team is yours and the next day papers vote for you to be the President.
Until the next time.
Because when you lose – the best of your friends will ostracize you.
So you grow up in a hurry.
And hope the best is still to come.