Lessons from the Madness (NOW WITH LEGIT FOOTNOTES!!)
There is no greater time to be a sports fan than the last two weekends of March. For eight days, 64 teams get ripped down down to four, through gruelling games against the toughest of odds. Kids fighting for a taste of glory. Schools resting their fates on the jump shot of a freshman. Kids hoping that their shot is their shot to the pros.
This is the dance.
This is the NCAA Basketball tournament.
This is March Madness.
If you’re not a basketball fan, you can still watch a bunch of kids (Freshmen to Seniors in university) play for their lives on live TV. It is a "win and you’re in scenario" with a loss being a hit on the program and for some, the last game of basketball they will ever play again. (Note: a small few will play in the NBA, some will play in Europe and others in smaller pro leagues hoping for a moment in the bigs).
This year I made it a point to watch as many games as possible, loving neglecting my family to yell at the screen (or two…I streamed on my laptop), lose my marbles on an amazing play and stand in disbelief when a buzzer beater would fall or go in.(1) And as I watched more sports now then I probably will for the rest of the year (2), there was much I gained and learned that I hope to never forget.
1 – Sports and Social Media is a great combination!
While watching games all week, it was great to go on twitter and facebook and have sports chats with my friends. Because we’re watching these games in real time, we could talk about things that we were amazed by (buzzer beaters, Canadian players), things that made the world better (no one likes Duke and if you do, then you should be punched in the face) and things that make us sad (remember when you thought your bracket was the best bracket?). As an added bonus, other sports chats about other sports (NHL - #tmltalk, EPL - #ROONEY, NBA - #Durant) were happening at the same time. We all can’t get to sports bars but we can hang out from our couches and man caves. Stellar.
2 – My son like basketball. That is awesome.
Liam (I know his name!) and I played ball on his little net for hours. Kid has a jump shot. Also, if I play standing, he punches upward. So my son is Bruce Bowen. Stupid Spurs. But knowing he loves ball make me want to dance like Mercer after beating Duke. But that nae nae, tho...! [Wifey's observation: "That looks like Bobby (Van Engen!!!)]
3 – Experience is huge in high pressure situations
A problem that basketball has in the NBA is that rookies are coming in too early into the league. What happens is that they go to university for one year simply to play basketball and get drafted but haven’t gained proper coping skills, team ethic and enhanced abilities. They rely on their basic athleticism to get them through, along with voices in their corner telling them they are the best.
The problem with that is that…well…they aren’t. And when standing in the way of five seniors who have played basketball together since they were freshmen when you’re down by 2 with little time left, youthful talent can’t stand. Three highly hyped freshmen all got knocked out in big fashion by older teams who knew what they were doing. The freshmen looked good but couldn’t do much...(3 - Check the footnote!)
4 – If you’re a leader and you mess up, don’t point figures…carry the blame.
These kids…when the game is lost and they sit in press conferences to talk about what went wrong, you never hear them put anyone under the bus. Instead, they admit defeat and move forward.
5 – How you lose says more about you than how you win.
6 – How you lose has an effect on everyone who cares about you.
You know the Christmas carol, “O Little Town Of Bethlehem”? The last line of the first verse, represents many school who believe in their sports teams: ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are on the court tonight…(emphasis mine'). And so when their team loses, it is like they lost themselves. This is why fans take loses so hard and use words like WE when talking about their teams, even though they don’t play for ‘em. I’ve sat on the edge of my bed saddened by a Laker championship loss (don’t even talk to me about this season!) and so have you probably. It’s the same for a cancelled show, broken up band…we hope and then when hopes are dashed, we cry a lot.(4)
7 – Don’t run from a challenge. Winning takes risk.
Because injuries happen and take out star players, it’s always someone unexpected who rises to the challenge to help their team win or come close to it, even being willing to ask for the ball at the end of the game with it all on the line. Winning (and losing close and well) takes so much effort and risk. Sometimes you gotta take the shot and deal with the results after the ball meets the net...
Sometimes the day just isn't yours...but trying was the right thing to do...
And sometimes, the juice is fully worth the squeeze...
The best moments and our hardest moments can teach us so much. So in the midst of the madness, stay patience. stay hungry. Stay humble. Never give up and be gracious in all things. Everything may say give up but if there's a chance, then there is a chance...and it may be worth taking...
...And IF you win, do the nae nae.
1. I exaggerate about neglecting my family, friends. Efie and Logan are with their mom Reba…I think…
2. I mean, NFL playoffs and Superbowl, Olympics and now THIS? I’m good until football starts back up in September
3. Churches do the same thing sadly. If a kid can sing well or sounds like they can preach, we’ll choose them to lead in a bigger capacity than someone who isn’t as flashy but has proper experience. And for a bit, that kid is the next big thing…until they come up against opposition or struggle. Then? Boom. It falls apart. Now, some end up being a Kevin Garnett/Kobe Bryant/LeBron James/Kevin Durant and do well right away for a long time (and even some of them had issues…Denver…The Decision…) but most are Kwame Brown/Greg Oden type who don’t make it. Lesson: let kids get experience. Keep their heads small and hearts soft. Most can’t handle the pressure. I couldn’t.
4. Church leaders run the same risk. When a project that people invest in falls apart, when a leader fails, when a key person leaves…it brings out the worst sort of feelings. When we make ourselves the heroes, the loss is that much greater. People can’t help but place people on high horses. We know our hope is Jesus but like the people of Israel to Samuel, we want to have a king like everyone else. But kings fall. Kingdoms end. And if our hope is in people, we will too.