An Essay by Kwame Cavil
Like Peanut Butter and Jelly: Sports and Science Fiction
It was the summer of 1987. I remember that year in time like it was yesterday. I was nine years old about to turn 10. The world was just starting to become clearly apparent to a young boy. I was no different than any adolescent boy. Girls, school, emotions, sports, food, cars, the dawn of video games, arcades, Michael Jackson and his iconic Thriller album were the influencers at that time. I could go on and on about the pop-culture moments in history that were formulated during 80’s era. My whole moral compass was based off the fact that I was a 70’s baby that was raised in the 80’s. Those eras exposed me to some of the most influential people and moments in our history. This was the era that first introduced me to one of the most (if not the most) influential movies of its generation, Star Wars. I’m talking science fiction people!! As a young lad, I always had an affinity for science fiction and sports. In all fairness, what adolescent boy doesn’t like the two genres of science and sports? Would we have video games if science fiction didn’t inspire the creators of Atari and Nintendo? I think not.
Seamlessly, the two genres of sports and science always seem to collide or coincide with each other. From learning how plants grow in the garden in your front yard, to trampling those plants from playing football and getting tackled in that same garden. I still remember my Mom yelling at my brothers and me for being too rough and close to her precious garden. From taking your telescope out and looking through the lens into space (if you were fortunate to have one), to watching the shuttle actually go into space from its launch pad at NASA. Or watching Michael Jordan look like he was launching himself into space with his famous free throw line slam dunk, I’ve been hooked on science fiction and sports. I know there are some kids out there that may not have the passion I had as a young boy for science and sports but science fiction is what made me dare to dream. Sports allowed me to reach those dreams. We have to dream first before we can achieve those dreams. Thanks to education, the expectations placed on me by my parents and family, and heroes I idolized, I could look to the stars and dare to be great.
Before George Lucas blessed us with his pop cultural masterpiece of science fiction, we had other examples of Space and the infinite possibilities of science fiction. There were other classics in their own right, such as E.T., War of the Worlds, Star Trek, Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, etc., that helped inspire us science fiction nerds. However, nothing compares to the impact of Star Wars to a generation of teenagers during that period. By 1987, the first three Stars Wars movies (or the last three according to the chronological timeline of the Star Wars trilogy) had moved into living room homes and out of the big screen. Everybody who had a VHS or VCR, and a TV could have the “Force” be with them or choose the “dark side” in the confines of their own homes. I can vividly remember having a flashlight and pretending to have a “green” lightsaber, while making the famous sound of that lightsaber. It’s hard for me to pinpoint what grabbed my attention first about the iconic series. The very thought of the unknown and the “what if” of science fiction ultimately drew my attention.
The underlying storyline of good vs. evil being depicted through its fictional equivalent of the “Force” vs. the “dark side” could be a determining factor in my love for Star Wars. Star Wars and other science fictional movies alike were impactful on my sports career. I wanted to be a hero like Luke Skywalker. The “Force” to me was equivalent to an athlete being in the “zone.” There were times where I witnessed my favorite athlete get into the “zone.” A phenomenon known to athletes where their preparation meets opportunity and a real life “out of body” experience occurs in the moment. For example, when Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan would have these scoring bursts in a single game, they often referred to themselves as feeling like they were in the “zone”. This mental zone can be only achieved through alignment of the mind, body, and soul. This mental mastery allows athletes to tap into a source only few can achieve through hard work, dedication, and determination (Kobe’s iconic 81 points in a single game or Jordan’s 69 points in the Boston Garden). Being in the “zone” and the “Force” parallel each other because of the mental prowess it takes to achieve this mental state. Every now and then, a person can achieve this mental mastery that connects with the body and causes them to be in a “zone” that they can’t even explain at times. Sounds like the “Force” to me. Oftentimes I’ve called myself a “Jedi” in football. Let me explain. After years and years of practice an athlete will achieve a mastery level that prepares them for a moment in the “zone.” It’s a feeling that can only be compared to having the “force” in that moment.
Sports can play an integral part in a young man’s life. There are so many life lessons that can be learned through sports. Integrity, honesty, hard work, and dedication are some of the lessons I learned from playing sports. Science fiction is a genre where a young man gets to create and explore. Science fiction allows people to dream and wonder the infinite possibilities. You can be whatever you want or create whomever you like. I think science fiction continues to make an appearance in sports. I’ve witnessed sports programming use it in their depiction of sports and its athletes to viewers. They often refer to athletes and their feats as fictional characters or characteristics. It’s in their nicknames: Michael “Air” Jordan, Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant, Shawn “Matrix” Marion, Dave “Cobra” Parker. These nicknames were given to them because of the athletic prowess that often resembled what they were being named for. Even I had a nickname because of how I glided across the field. Announcers would call me “Cadillac” Cavil because of the comparison of the smooth ride you could achieve from riding in a Cadillac. In conclusion, sports and science fiction are intertwined like peanut butter and jelly. You can enjoy them separately, but together they are out of this world.
Editor’s Note: Kwame’s Wikipedia. Photo courtesy of Waco ISD.