Apparently, smell is the sense that is tied closest to memory.
While that is true, the direct link between scent and the meaningful moments stashed in the recesses of our minds is only one connection related to the recollection of stops along life’s journey.
In that sense, for me — and, I suspect, for others — sports and the sense of smell function in similar ways.
Fortunately, I am lucky enough to have made countless lasting memories in the nearly four years since I came to Georgetown in August 2007. In the midst of the hectic days of Senior Week, I’ve spent time reflecting on my stint at this university and what it has meant, and I’ve realized that sporting events are truly crucial in marking the time.
I remember Super Bowl XLII in January 2008 and how I superstitiously remained in my freshman dorm — Village C West 808, the one that floods whenever it rains — with my roommate, just like I did throughout the Giants’ playoff run. Immediately, I recall every detail of that room and the experiences I had both inside and outside its walls. I think of how I thought and felt as an 18-year-old, first-year college student, and I try to recapture the essence of that mindset.
Friends, professors, papers, parties, calls home, accomplishments, anxieties — they all rush back simply because I picture snapshots of Eli Manning throwing a perfect fade to Plaxico Burress for a touchdown.
And I’m sure those things will also rush back if I ever smell carpet mold again, but that’s not the point.
On a much smaller scale, recalling a fairly nondescript April 2011 matchup between the Yankees and Blue Jays has the same effect. Mo Rivera blew the save that night, but I’ll always remember that I watched that game with my parents in the basement of my house on S Street. It was late in the school year, and I was worn out from a long couple of semesters spent both hitting the books and, to put it nicely, enjoying the social and recreational opportunities available to me as a Georgetown senior.
As we watched the game, I recall just genuinely enjoying the company of my mom and dad and profoundly appreciating and reciprocating their love for me, a feeling embodied by the fact that they have made my Georgetown education possible in the first place.
So in my mind, that very insignificant baseball game and that very significant realization of gratitude will remain forever intertwined. To be sure, sports, in ways both small and large, have been central to the memories I hold dear.
The experience of linking moments in sports to moments important to my growth in mind, body and spirit stretches far beyond my years on the Hilltop. I could probably fill the pages of this newspaper with those recollections, but the challenge — and simultaneously the reward — of making those connections only takes several lines to describe.
Thinking back to a game we watched with someone or to having a catch with a friend or a parent challenges us to conjure specific feelings, which is really hard to do. It makes sense that in movies like “The Santa Clause”, adults forget what it’s like to actually think and feel like kids do.
To me, sporting events are like bookmarks for our memories, helping us locate the right places in our minds to recapture the way we were, the way we thought and the way we felt at a certain point in time.
That’s why sports are so appropriate and essential for contextualizing and simplifying exactly who we are or who we used to be, especially in relation to others. Enjoying a game with friends or having a catch with someone are experiences that offer a golden opportunity to attach an emotion or state of mind — joy, contentment, admiration, friendship, et cetera — to a very basic event.
In attempting to grasp this linkage, I have also realized that the process applies to many things other than sports, an aspect of life that has been my tool for trying to cement the important interpersonal and internal aspects of memory into my consciousness and to make them all the more vibrant and meaningful.
Our brains process information by making intellectual shortcuts, and drawing parallels between sports and memory is one of them.
I get into this process because, in the words of Vitamin C, it’s natural that “as we go on, we remember.” Graduations and similar transitions lend themselves to looking both backward and forward, to taking stock of where we’ve come from and where we’re going.
But even as we reflect and imagine, it is equally important to live in the moment and to actively forge new memories as they unfold. It entails living with our eyes open and being fully present to our experiences.
Along with the rest of the Class of 2011, I am graduating from Georgetown tomorrow. It’s a fact that may be impossible to fully comprehend, but it is a milestone that evokes a diverse bag of emotions.
I know exactly how I feel at this moment, but years down the road it might not be so easy.
At the same time, I think of how a new wave of young talent is emerging in the NBA, how the NFL is still in a lockout and how Jorge Posada may be in General George Custer mode.
I suspect sports will help to bring me back.
Dave Finn is a senior in the College and a former sports editor at The Hoya. This is the final installment of Couch Talk.