My choice of sports has always been limited. In high school ground sticks-ground sticks while wearing a navy pleated tunic and a white shirt hardly excited me. I was goalie, a safe place because hardly any goals were scored. Stress free zone.
My team sports required almost no team. I played against myself, mostly. Ice skating. Tennis. I took up tennis when I was thirty. Singles. Again, no team play. Likely says something about me, maybe “I can do it myself”. Small, fleet of foot, with a deadly left backhand, my patient husband would serve balls for hours as I learned to place them precisely. The hardest part was to grasp that if I wanted to win, it was imperative to place the ball where my opponent wasn’t. Every time. Seemed crass. I was the kind of player that ran down every single ball without tiring. Looking back, my physical fitness was impressive. Though I carried an extra ten pounds, my doctor gave me one of the most dubious compliments I ever received: “That is the tightest fat I have ever encountered”. Never mind. By the end of the summer I’d have run it off.
Basketball. The only spectator sport I could bear. In high school, basketball occupied my time. Bussing it to away games, home court attendance, screaming hoarse, I was unrecognizable even to myself. Years later, I’d watch ice hockey…Philadelphia Flyers…and do it alone, as my language bordered on the obscene, though I had curbed that watching basketball. My high school team went to the finals every year but always came home the loser.
Last night I tuned in and out of the game, cheering the Cavs, but disengaged when it was tied 71-71. I thought they’d lose. I managed to catch the win. And watched grown men weep for joy. To end 52 years of losses is hard to get your head around. This was a testimony to belief and perseverance.
To see a city pull itself together to stand tall on the shoulders of a team of men orchestrating pride and solidarity, unity in each other to finish a win speaks loudly to everything a competition sport is about. Periodically we are abused with noise about what’s wrong with competition, whether in a game or in classrooms or the effort of nations. Whether someone who has truly achieved should be seen as better than those who don’t even rank as peers. Get a grip. That is a point of view foisted upon the successful as prideful and should be shamed. Who does the foisting? Those who will never make the effort to excel. Who feel guilty if they do. Turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to that lie. It is ever important, in any arena, to do your level best, to reach inside and pull out the “you” others would discourage to justify their lack of same. It is the fabric of giants. To ever, ever do less than your best is what should be shamed. To shame a winner is to destroy purpose. To negate pride in achievement. To hold down.
There is a great line to be found in Chariots of Fire. An Olympian says ” I run to give God pleasure.” What were you made to do? To be? Would you deny God? You are born to greatness. Try to get as close as possible.