Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Game of Your Life

Like much of America, pretty much the only time I watch/follow college basketball (now that we aren't in a college basketball town) is during March Madness--the NCAA Championship games. We'll catch a game or two during the season, especially if a PAC-10 team is playing, but our viewing time dramatically increases as the teams begin their push to the championship.

This year, Butler and Duke squared off for the men's final game. The Butler Bulldogs were not expected to beat the perennial favorite Duke Blue Devils, but damn was that a nail-biter of a game. The Butler team, to paraphrase a line in "Galaxy Quest," never gave up and never surrendered. They challenged the Blue Devils literally to the last second, when a lob across the court bounced off the rim and failed to go in. Heartbreaking for a team that played with so much heart, so much poise. At the end, as Duke was celebrating yet another championship, those young Butler men and their coach held their heads high--and rightfully so--as they shook hands with their opponents, stunned and disappointed yet offering congratulations and "Good game." They had earned the right to be there, deserved the championship just as much as their foes, but the ball just didn't fall the right way that final shot. So close. So very, very close.

The women's game between Stanford (yay! PAC-10!) and the University of Connecticut (another perennial participant in the Final Four) saw play a little slow and disjointed at the start, but again, all those young women showed had the right to be on that floor. Both teams played hard, fought for every point, every rebound, every chance. Players fell hard going after the ball, but for all the physicalness, there was no aggression, not a glimmer of loss of control. These young women, like their male counterparts, are fierce competitors. But the maturity and poise they showed was amazing. When UConn had won, and another round of congratulations and "Good game" was exchanged between teams, I was happy for the winners, but my heart broke for Stanford as it did for Butler.

I'd have to agree with those who might see college basketball (or any collegiate sport) as an allegory for life. Years of practice, of learning from people who know what they're doing, of weeding out the advice of people who think they know what they're doing, of getting up early to work out and staying up late to finish homework assignments. Of treating yourself right and sacrificing some things you want to do but can't because there's a game the next day or a bus or plane to catch. Tired of doing the same drills over and over and over again. But knowing, in your heart, that it's worth it. That there are people in your life, on your team, counting on you to give your hundred percent. Who you can count on to give their hundred percent. That makes you want to give even more, and you're happy to do it.

And in the end, after doing everything you can to be in the game of your life, maybe you'll be the one cutting down the net. If not, there is always next year.

Congratulations to all the teams in this year's games.



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