ESPN's "Outside The Lines" is running a totally epic multi-media piece on the greatest athlete of my lifetime, the astonishing Leo Messi: Lionel Messi, Here & Gone.
The garage area looked familiar, then I remembered. I saw a video of Messi playing soccer here with his young nieces and nephews, dodging and feigning, moving the tiny ball with his feet, the kids unable to take it away. The look on his face is the same as when he plays in front of millions of fans. There's something innocent about him with a ball. His friends laugh about how Messi seems somehow less than himself without one. Leguizamon told us a story. The last time Messi came to visit, they hung out in a backyard, and they watched him, uneasy, antsy. Finally, without even realizing he was doing it, he pulled a lemon from a tree and juggled it mindlessly with his feet, whole again.
It's so hard to comprehend the life of someone like Messi: his extraordinary ability recognized as a child, taken away to live a very special and different life.
Something about the pain of Messi losing his childhood seems to make him always be looking for it — or even still living it — whether he's got a ball at his feet in a packed stadium, or visiting the town where that childhood was lost. I read a interview not long ago with Bruce Springsteen where he said he spent years driving past the house where he grew up, night after night, and a psychologist told him he was trying to go back in time to change the things that happened in that house.
I would love to be able to play like Messi, to be able to enjoy the game like he does, but I am so happy that I never had to live like him.