Ah, March Madness. The four-day weekend where I don’t shave or change out of my pajamas or do anything productive for society. I usually have four screens going at once to capture all the action, but alas, I seem to have misplaced some of my screens after my ex and I split up. I now understand the importance of fighting over your things when getting divorced.
I’ve always loved March Madness in part because of all the electricity that surrounds it, but also in part because the imperfection, the inexperience, and the raw emotion of the players makes each game all the more unpredictable. These young men and women are outstanding athletes–but they are still human. And humans get nervous. Especially when there are thousands of people watching.
Part of being human also means accepting your limitations. These athletes accept that they might miss the clutch shot or clumsily call for a time out when there are none left. This year, I’ve been thinking about my limitations, the shots that I’ve missed and the time outs I’ve erroneously called. And I mean, I’ve botched some pretty outstanding things. But those things are in the past, and once something is past, that is where it stays.
I’m getting off-track here (probably what I get for getting home at 5AM and waking up at noon). This isn’t about what I’ve botched or not. It’s about finding the confidence and courage to forget about those things, to move on, and to do so with the strong belief that I will still find success in my future. That’s the mindset every college athlete has to take on whenever he or she is taking free throws in the last minute of play or setting up that one final shot with six-tenths of a second left. You can’t think about the past because if you do, the future you were so anxious about will already have become a part of it–and probably not in the way you’d have like.
The band Phish wrote a song a couple of years ago called, “The Line.” As far as Phish goes, it’s not my favorite tune, but I like the concept. It’s about Darius Washington Jr., a former basketball player for the University of Memphis. The game on the line and no time on the clock, it was up to Darius to win the game. Three points to win, two to tie. He only made one. His season ended with the resounding thunk of a basketball against a cruel rim.
Of course, not so publicly, but we’ve all been there. If we haven’t, we will be. If we have, we’ll be there again. That’s life, those moments when you know everything can change one way or another, but you only have so much power to affect the outcome. I felt that way going into kidney donation, and like Darius Washington Jr., I live with a little bit of frustration that I’ll probably always carry with me. Frustration that it didn’t go exactly as I planned. Frustration that I haven’t been more thankful for all the things that didn’t go wrong, and especially for the health of my recipient, which is stellar. Frustration that, despite the things that didn’t go as I planned, despite missing some of the biggest shots of my career–I’ve got to get back out there and keep playing.
You try to see the future from the line
And you’re clinging to the notion you’ll be fine
But the circle’s getting smaller all the time
That’s life in a nutshell. Phish doesn’t tell us how to maintain that confidence, but it’s not their job to. That’s not the point. The point is accepting our imperfections, aspiring towards glorious things, and being okay with failing to get there.
Now I just hope that Duke is okay with failing to get there because seriously if they end up in the Final Four this year I’m going to count that as proof that Mike Krzyzewski is in fact the lord of the White Walkers and winter is already here and unless Kevin Ollie turns into a three-eyed raven, we’re all fuuuuuuu….you know what, this is a family program. I’m just going to stop right there.