There comes a time in a young boy's life when being clever with a footy just isn't enough. But what happens, as it did to Cam Noakes, when being cool becomes all too consuming?
When I was a child I used to run, I used to chase, I used to fill my lungs with clean air as my heart pumped clean blood through my hairless body.
When I was a child I used to say things like "I'm never going to drink." And "I'm never going to smoke." And "I'm never going to drive a car."
When I was a child I believed in Santa Claus and I planned to be him when I grew up.
I said a lot of things when I was a child. I said a lot of good things.
Twenty years later I'm a scared man. I'm scared of running into that child because I don't think the child will be impressed with me. I'm scared the child will turn to me and say "Well, you've turned out to be a piece of garbage." I will have to defend myself to the young me and say "You don't understand. Wait until you get older, kid." And the child will look at me and say "So what?" And I'll say "There are things, you know?" But I'll realise my defence is hopelessly inadequate and that I was smarter when I was a child.
I don't know when it started to go wrong.
The teenage years are difficult. There are a lot of people to impress and you have to do it in so many. Doing something fancy with a football gets you only so far. The child doesn't understand that. That stupid kid will chase a ball for the rest of his days. He doesn't understand there comes a point in your life when you must get high to Riders on the Storm.
He doesn't understand there comes a time when you want to walk down the street and look cool, look like a rock star, look like a rebel. You see that dumb punk doesn't understand the word "rebel." He thinks rebelling is being naughty and involves wrapping up dog poo and putting it in someone's letter box. He thinks rebelling is about sneaking a peek of a pornographic magazine or stealing refundable bottles from the back of the milk bar and then walking in front of the shop to cash in.
That kid should have a crack at being 17 and see how he fares; see how many women are interested in him with his stupid theories and pure, pink lungs. That little bastard wouldn't even know who Lou reed is.
Anyway, it's just a phase, kid. Just a necessary phase in the child to man evolution. Well, that what I thought when I was 17.
I thought I would do these things for a while and then just stop. So I did them. I drank whisky, I drank wine, I drank whatever was put in front of me. If I could light it, I would smoke it. I even smoked cinnamon sticks. I swallowed pills of every colour and snorted anything I could grind into powder. I would have snorted dandruff if someone had it in a plastic bag.
And this is what I did for eight years, maybe 10; committed bodily abuse all in the name of fun. However, my brain and body were not communicating. And this is what that smug little smart-arse doesn't get.
The brain says: "Okay, you've had your fun. Enough is enough. Time to start looking after yourself a bit." But the body doesn't have any respect for the brain. You see, the body thinks the brain is a geeky kid on the top floor that wears black-rimmed spectacles. So the brain says: "I'm not addicted. I can give up, I can cut down, I'm going to start running the way I did when I was a child." But the bastard body says: "Tomorrow nerd-boy, next year four-eyes, just give me another drink, light my smoke and shut the freak up, geek."
The brain becomes all submissive, weak, confused. It stops really thinking. It's no longer concerned about rebellion, music, fashion or even interesting thoughts. From time to time it mouths off, it takes a New Year's resolution, but it's all talk.
And the body knows it.
So the brain, now, just keeps the house clean, does the dishes, hangs the clothes on the line and organises the finances for the body to fuel itself at the local pub. When the brain's done vacuuming, the body plants itself on a barstool and says: "Pour me another glass of wine, this bad boy's tasting good."
The brain stays quiet.
You don't understand that kid. You're young, you're active, you have thousand of thoughts everyday.
You had only one thought today.