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I’ve covered athletes for a long time, and the greatest mistake they often make is a failure to embrace the moments.

It’s a chronic problem, one that spans genders, sports, ages, etc. I’ve heard some variation of the quote, “I’ll have time to enjoy this when I’m retired and look back …” and it’s a digestible-yet-nonsensical statement. Why digestible-yet-nonsensical? Because moments are to be enjoyed and embraced as they happen, not 10 … 20 … 30 … 40 years later. I’ll use a personal example: In 1990-91, I was a member of the cross country and indoor track teams at the University of Delaware. It was an absolutely terrific year, one in which I competed against some of the best runners I’d ever seen; run along breathtaking trails in breathtaking places; jogged along with teammates who made me laugh and cry and think.

I remember, oh, .01% of it.

Why? Because memories—even strong memories—fade with time. And while YouTube clips can preserve the images (Tyree’s catch remains amazing), it can’t preserve the emotions; the bonds; the heart and sweat and tears.

So I wish more athletes would take those valuable seconds to look around; to take deep breaths and feel the turf and gaze longingly into the lights above.

Because, while memories are swell, nothing beats the real thing.

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