The thing about team sports, or any sport for that matter, is that it isn't just about winning or losing. As cliche as it may sound, it is about how you play the game. It would take the combined descriptive powers of Tom Clancy and Dan Brown to illustrate the sheer raw electricity of playing with a good team. "Well oiled machine", another cliche, comes to mind.
While teen movies potray the high school jock as a bit of a brain dead attention seeking neanderthal, I applaud kids that take part in sports. It would be impossible to find a more effective platform to teach the essentials of life.
How to make sacrifices.
How to work with others.
How to think on the fly.
How to work according to a plan.
How to handle defeat.
How to handle victory.
How to trust your team mates.
How to shoulder responsibility.
They just don't teach this stuff in class.
However, you could preach technique, strategy, defence and hard work till the cows came home, but if you don't have heart - well, none of that matters.
Two things came to mind while I was writing this. One was an article written about Pat Riley, a legendary coach that led the Lakers to four NBA championships, and cemented them as one of the most dominant teams in basketball. Many years down the line, close to retirement, he finally had his new team, the Miami Heat, into the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Dwyane Wade and Gary Payton had gotten into it during an early round playoff game; someone taking the other’s shot. All of a sudden Pat Riley could see the 2006 postseason going the way of all his others since he had left the Showtime Lakers.
He had fired his protégé in midseason and installed himself as coach again to make sure this opportunity, his last best chance at a title, wasn’t wasted. He couldn’t have petty stuff ruin it.
For all the fancy suits and slicked-back hair that he used to glamorize the coaching profession, Riley was still an old-school basketball soul out of working-class Schenectady, N.Y., and the University of Kentucky, the son of a minor-league baseball coach and a believer in every motivational ploy he could muster.
So right in the middle of the playoffs, he decided to have a big container built in the Heat locker room. The next game he pushed a wheel barrow full of little cards with pictures of the players’ families on one side and the motto “15 Strong” (as in 15 teammates) on the other. Each game, home and away, he’d bring out more cards to remind each player just what they were really playing for.
It was more than a bit trite, more than a bit hackneyed and it more than a bit worked. It worked so well, in fact, that here was Riley, standing over his pen in the final minutes before Game 6 of the NBA Finals against Dallas, his Heat just one game from a title.
All eyes on him in a silent locker room, he pulled out a set of rosary beads with five NBA championship rings hanging from it. Four were from his days coaching Magic Johnson’s Lakers. One was as a reserve player on Wilt Chamberlain’s.
With Shaq and D-Wade and Alonzo and the rest watching, Riley held the beads and rings up high and then threw them into the pen.
“I will give all five of those up to win this one,” he said.
The players, all those millionaires, went charging out the door like a high school team. Forty-eight minutes later, they returned as champions.
- By Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports
The other thing that came to mind was this scene from "Any Given Sunday".
So perhaps it IS just a game, and sometimes it IS just about winning and losing, but sometimes - just sometimes - it's all about heart.