Monday, March 14, 2016

Would've, should've, could've

Source: Liberty University Website
I was glued to the screen, my heart beating as furiously as it does in a tight, long race. "Yes. . . Noooo. . .Don't be dead, Sid. Open your eyes, get up. Show me you're okay. . .Come on. . . Grab it. . . Go in, go in. . . Rebound!"

I didn't want to miss a second of the action as I watched the saga unfold. Back and forth went the lead in this championship game. It seemed that the destiny of the world was riding on whether or not a round, orange ball dropped through an 18 inch diameter rim perched 120 inches off the hardwood floor.

Now rewind. I've competitively played a lot of different sports throughout my high school, college, and adult athletic careers, but basketball was never one of them. I think I could have been a decent player but alas, gymnastics was held the same season. I tumbled, leaped, and flew through the air rather than dribbling and passing around the court. Nevertheless, it is basketball that now holds importance and priority. What changed (besides about forty years)?

Or more importantly, what changed me? Why do I care so deeply for the game and this team who plays it?

The answer? The women of Liberty University's basketball team. For the last nine months I've met
with them, laughed with them, cried with them, shared truth with them, and have grown to love each one of them. I've sat in the stands and watched them play as they won some, lost some. Together we shared our fear and dreams over coffee, I've listened as they poured life into one another, and encouraged those who found themselves sidelined with injury. I've become vested in them. So when I stared at the action during the deciding game of the Big South Championship last night, I felt a hook wrangle my heart and capture my soul. That was "my" team. Those were "my" girls. Together we would celebrate. Or perhaps, together we would mourn.

Periods of brilliance produced a substantial lead. Minutes of mark-missing shots cut the lead, then surrendered the lead. Balls heaved by the opponent from behind the three-point line swished the rim, producing palpable energy and fervored play. The buzzer for the fourth period sounded, score tied. Five more minutes of frantic action yielded the same result. But when the second overtime period drew to a close, the Lady Flames earned two points less than a worthy UNC Asheville team. The program's 17th Big South championship trophy alluded the Liberty women. There would be no championship rings, no celebrated victor's arrival back on campus. We lost. Ugh. I felt deep visceral pain as I read disappointment on their faces and in their tears, despite the admirable and intentional effort to be gracious in defeat.

"If only we would've. . . we should've. . . we definitely could've."

Such responses come easily after such a battle. Second guessing. Remorse for missing an easy shot. Understanding an arm extended more rapidly or a quick lunge to the left could've forced the turnover and put more points on the board. But while these retrospective responses are typical, are they appropriate? Well, yes and no.

Let's be honest, failing to win the day is deeply disappointing (and sometimes embarrassing). A legacy of success that produces expectations of greatness is hard to reconcile when the scoreboard declares another the winner. So what to do?

We dare mourn but for a moment. For while God desires us to learn from the past, He does not ask that we live there. How often did He say, "Remember when?" How many times were His people reminded of both past downfalls and victories for the purpose of rightful living in the present and a bright hope for tomorrow?

Yes, it's easier said than done. Mistakes were made. Shots bounced off the rim. The game was not played perfectly. The championship not won. But the game was not in vain.

A team's worth is not contingent on the outcome of a game. Be thankful for what went right, learn from what went wrong, and look forward to what lays ahead.

Ladies of LU Basketball, you are my champions.

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