Jewish World Review Nov. 30, 2004 / 17 Kislev, 5765
Issac J. Bailey
Sports done right is never about sports
I can still see their faces.
They were standing in long overcoats next to a fence surrounding the football field, about six former high school football players who had followed us to a playoff game more than a hundred miles from home.
It was my last game as a high school player. And it was cold - really cold - and rainy. Yet they came. And cheered and clapped and high fived. As long as we were winning.
For most of the game we were, until a last-minute touchdown pass. They were crushed, their disappointment immediately turning to disgust.
It dripped from their faces.
They mumbled, waved us off and walked away. It hurt. Bad.
And we went into the locker room, quiet. That is until Jamie started to cry uncontrollably, blaming himself for the loss. Between tear drops and mumbles, he said it was his fault that final touchdown was allowed.
It was hard - really hard - for that 16-year-old and this 17-year-old. We had worked hard all year but still felt like failures.
It is because of that night I want my son and daughter to participate in sports. Because sports done right is never about sports. Because the lessons it teaches can't be learned from a textbook or lecture.
It's a beautiful test. Despite what we witnessed a few years ago when a parent beat another to death during a hockey practice, despite the taunts and ugly names we hear at Little League games, despite what we've witnessed over the past couple of weeks with the brawl between fans and the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons or the one between the Clemson Tigers and University of South Carolina Gamecocks football teams.
Because sports done right is never about sports. It's about having to look adversity in the eye and deal with it properly.
It's about having to blend dueling responsibilities, those required of you by the team and those you require of yourself.
It's about practicing self-control when all around you is an ugly uproar. It's about the importance of planning and preparing and organizing and passion and purpose.
It's about understanding that personal expectations must always be higher than those assigned you by others.
It's about knowing you hurt the team's chances when you make a mistake or greatly help them by holding up your end of the bargain. There's no better way to learn about the responsibility and power each of us has been given.
Because sports done right is never easy. And neither is life.
Issac J. Bailey is a columnist for the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News. Comment by clicking here.
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