The knot in my stomach, once the size of a baseball has ballooned into something closer to a bowling ball. Each Saturday it grows a little bigger, leaving me nauseous for hours afterwards. Good grief! What ails you? I’m sure you are thinking. Surprisingly, it’s because the little football team my ten-year-old son plays on will be entering the playoffs undefeated.
For those of you rolling your eyes, let me explain. This team, formed with the castoffs other teams didn’t want, spent the prior three seasons being crushed by almost every opponent we went up against. Often, I found myself saying things like, “They tried their best,” to the other parents on the team, or “Ooo, look at that, they got a first down,” and even an occasional, “Hey, we got a touchdown.” Cheering, with every fiber in me, no matter how bad we lost.
Like a slow trickle, something happened to this rag-tag team of outcasts. Under the tutelage of an amazingly patient coach, they’ve become executing assassins, wiping out teams that mocked us in seasons past. But with each win, the expectations for them to continue in kind also rose. And that pressure almost cost us the final game of this season.
This really is a general model for us all. Failing is easier when it’s all you’ve ever known, but once you taste success, failure is multiplied by the bitter recognition of the achievement you lost. I’ve met people who actually choose to lead mediocre lives because of it. They fear the pain of a stumble, so they don’t try at all. What a pity. For even if my boys (after so many seasons together, I consider them such) lose in the playoffs, they’ve experienced the power of dedication and hard work that can’t be taken from them. Life is not about the stark wins and losses in our lives, it’s the baby steps we take to discover what we really are capable of doing. You’ll never know until you try. Even if, for me, throwing up before each of these playoffs games is a strong possibility.