Last night my sons played and lost their high school basketball games. This has been a long season, with many more losses than wins. Everyone is discouraged, counting the days until the season mercifully ends. This will be next week, because even with the recent desire to expand until nearly every team makes playoffs, they won’t be one of ‘nearly every team.’ This house was quiet last night.
I was an athlete for much of my life; a life that revolved around baseball schedules through college. Now, you know the 46 year-old me, but 12, 15, 17, 22 year-old me was a raving lunatic with a savage temper and desperate need to win ballgames. If I didn’t, my depressed rage would steal the following days from me. I’d stew while replaying the game, pitch by pitch, analyzing something, anything I could’ve done to change the outcome.
And if there was one thing I’d change, it wouldn’t be the pains, the little injuries that remind me every morning that I threw tens (hundreds?) of thousands of pitches in my life. Instead, I would not have given those days away.
I would have still competed like my life depended on it (as if I had a choice in that), but then, win or lose, I would release the baggage and replace it with gratitude. Not everyone gets to play, not everyone can play, not everyone is allowed the privilege of sports. I did, I was. I was given a rare, beautiful gift. And like so many gifts, I used it to define me, something in which I could find and measure my value. If I lost, I didn’t just lose a game. I was a loser. Until the next one, where I might be redeemed.
I don’t think my boys find their worth in final scores, as I did. There is a healthy competition where we taste the joy of giving all we have in pursuit of a goal. I want them to care. I want them to pour themselves out, run until they are absolutely spent. It’s wonderful to play with the gifts we have been given, right? But they do sometimes forget to be thankful, and a precious evening together, with us and with their teammates, is lost.
I guess we all do that in certain areas of our lives, this isn’t exclusive to sports. She says no and we decide we’re unloveable. We don’t get the promotion and we’re despondent, overflowing with inadequacy. The shot doesn’t go in so we’re crushed, deciding to never shoot again. And the next thing you know, it’s days later and all we’ve done is spend them on a downward spiral of overreaction and the automatic negative thoughts that are, sadly, so familiar to so many of us.
These weeks, days, hours, moments are too valuable to squander with that sort of weight. I want my boys to run up and down, shoot with confidence, do hard things, try, risk, soak up the process, see how fast and far they are capable of going, do all with integrity, humility, passion (and yes, I want them to win, but that’s a very very distant last) and not get so bogged down with insecurity and lies.
Actually, I want that for all of us.