You Don’t Win All The Time

Mary Jane - Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Entered on March 29, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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By the time I was 11 I learned that adults in North Carolina act irrationally when it comes to Atlantic Coast Conference basketball. From the tip off in November until the tournament time of March Madness, basketball fills my ordinary life with excitement.

My team, the Duke University Blue Devils, was eliminated in the quarter final round of the NCAA tournament this year [2006] by the Tigers of Louisiana State University. I have to wait until next season to wear my Duke blue sweater and cross my fingers, legs and arms into a twisted pretzel to bring the players luck at the foul line.

I was raised on Duke basketball. My grandparents met at Trinity College, the precursor of Duke. My parents, my sister and too many cousins to count attended Duke. My husband and I met at Duke. One daughter is a graduate and the other is a freshman. My grandfather, class of 1912, lettered in basketball. Fifty years later as a cheerleader I practiced my kicks to Devil in the Blue Dress in the same gym where he played.

I attended my first Duke game in 1963 and was hooked on the drama and grace of the sport played by giants in short pants. For the first time I saw my reserved, proper Southern mother acting like a cheering fool. In a Duke t-shirt over her silk blouse and wool skirt she shook pompoms and her hips in synch with the gyrating cheerleaders. From her I learned that I can express the passion, the anger and the outrageousness that society tells me to subdue. During the two-hour game I throw temper tantrums like a two-year-old, swear like a New York cab driver, and scream like a banshee. After the game I return to being a mother, a wife, a storyteller.

All season long I live with the ups and downs of the team. One night I’m thrusting both fists into the air and screaming “Yes!” at a buzzer-beating shot banging in. Another afternoon I’m staring in shocked silence at a shot ricocheting off the backboard. I’ve learned that win or lose, the next day I still have to go to work and cook dinner.

After this year’s loss in the tournament, coach Mike Kryzyzewski said, “You’ve got to learn you don’t win all the time. You lose too. And you have to handle the losses with the dignity and class that you handle the wins.”

Duke basketball has taught me to live with the reality of not succeeding all the time. I’ve also learned to live with abandoned passion. Next season I’ll be cheering wildly for Duke to win. This I believe.