I believe in the life lessons learned from losing a game. My senior football season was the best athletic experience of my life. Our team was arguably the finest my high school has seen in its twenty-year history. With forty-two seniors to lead, it looked as if nothing could stop us. We had the talent. We had the heart. We had the leadership. We definitely had the hype.
For our team, this was the year. Through the summer, we woke up at six-thirty every morning for two hours of weights and conditioning. Instead of taking a break before the school year started up, like all sane people would do, we had two weeks of two-a-days, the high school athletics equivalent of Marine boot camp. The season finally came around and, as everyone expected, we steamrolled most of our opponents. As our team motto so eloquently stated, “It [was] our time.”
Long story short, we made it to the state championship game for the first time in school history. We had fought through adversity and injury to become, in essence, heroes. But every protagonist has his bad guy counterpart; ours was the Hutchinson Salthawk football team. They had won four state championships in a row, and it had given them that air of legitimate cockiness that says, “Nothing against you, buddy, but we’re so good that it might be wise to turn your stuff in now to avoid certain defeat and probable death.” We were picked to lose by thirty. But that only fueled our rage.
On game day, sleet poured out of the sky, followed by snow, then more sleet. A polar bear would have been shivering in the cold. But we weren’t. We had been through too much to care. When we got our first glimpse of the enemy, it was clear that they were everything promised and more. They were the biggest, baddest, most juiced-up players we had ever seen (let’s keep that last between you and me). But we weren’t impressed, only ready. Despite the cold, when the ball was kicked off, we had fire in our veins.
We lost 38-0. To say we got destroyed is to call a mountain a pebble. But we’re still here, and I, at least, learned that even in defeat, we were victorious. I spent long hours contemplating the nature of the universe and tried to find a reason, if there is an intelligent designer out there, why we didn’t win. But I learned more in those meditations than I would have learned celebrating a win by engaging in illicit, though supervised, activities.
I learned that the greatest and most important thing we can ask of ourselves is to give everything we have. Once that is achieved, the scoreboard really becomes obsolete.
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