Losing The Big Game
Around here, high school basketball State Champions are being crowned this weekend. March Madness is just around the corner for college cagers.
Heroes will emerge.
Some of them will use their on-court actions as a springboard for the next chapters in their lives, using those lessons learned from playing sports to better themselves, while others will become intoxicated by the fleeting fame and never know a better moment, no matter how long they live.
One harsh truth is that unless you win the Championship, almost every player’s final game ends in a loss.
Inevitably that final defeat carries with it feelings of remorse and regret, sometimes creating a nagging disappointment that lasts a lifetime for those players who feel most responsible for not winning that final game.
Usually the players who bear the biggest burden are the very ones who carried the team along the way which allowed their team to get to play as deep into the playoffs as they did.
There will doubtless be much written in praise of the teams that survive the playoff gauntlet and emerge as champions.
I choose, instead, to address those who fall short of their ultimate dream, some of whom may actually perform at a higher level (relative to their natural ability and potential), than those more gifted teams that get to lift the big trophy at the season’s end.
It is hoped that no loss for any player is so excruciating that none of the good that came from playing the whole season is lost in one painful moment. It would be a shame if any player is scarred for life based solely on losing a ballgame while still a teenager, and that all the good lessons are lost along the way.
If anything, I would hope that at least some of the players who lose their final game of the season have an experience similar to one I had at the age of ten.
My Little League team had won our divisional title, and we were slated to play the other divisional champ for the Minor League Championship of the East Fullerton Little League. At the time, it was the biggest game of my life.
I’m sure my Warriors were full of hope and confidence when the game started, but it was soon obvious that this was not to be our night. By the time we made our final out with the score 27-1 against us (this game predated by many years the now-universal 10-run Mercy Rule), we were actually laughing at ourselves, amazed at how outmatched we were in the game.
Not a single tear was shed on our side of the field that night, as nobody was afflicted with any delusions of the loss being all his fault (it was truly a team effort), as is so often the case following a close game.
And in the process, another valuable lesson was on display to us.
If you’re going to lose the big game, better to get your brains beaten in.
There’s no question about it.