I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, where sports played a central role for the entire region. Whether supporting our professional sports teams (most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers) or our local high school athletics, most folks’ emotions were tethered to the wins and losses of their teams. Some observers credit the heightened sports loyalty to the tight-knit family culture that pervades the area. Others claim it is how sports teams reflect the values of the traditional blue-collar work force.
Recently, I’ve seen this level of emotional investment taking root in my 7-year-old son. He truly started following football this year. He learned player rosters, studied play selection, and understood time management while also picking up the nuances of the game. Unfortunately, I’ve also witnessed firsthand what this investment can do when a game results in a loss.
This year’s Super Bowl pitted the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers. My son was heartbroken when our team lost the game. He cried and was distraught. I was crushed by the outcome, as well. I wanted to win just as badly as he did, but I chose to use the setback as a teaching opportunity about acceptance, effort, and mental resolve. This was not an easy task for me.
Honestly, I have a very competitive spirit. Winning is something that I strive for in all my endeavors. Whether it’s a game of cards, trivia, or a pickup game of basketball, my goal has always been to win. But winning has taken on a different definition for me over the past several years. I view the value of “winning” being centered on effort and pushing yourself to obtain the best result that you can put forth on any given day.
My teaching opportunity with my son had unknowingly been set in motion just three weeks earlier by an unlikely source. I had been captivated by a post game interview conducted with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis after the Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in this year’s divisional playoff game.
In full disclosure, I want to share that at the beginning of Ray Lewis’s career, I was not a fan. He attended the University of Miami, which was known for its brash and boastful players and Lewis was no exception. He also plays for the team that is the archenemy of my beloved Steelers. My stance on Lewis softened several years ago when I learned that he has done mission work in Africa and works with disadvantaged children in his community. Lewis’s comments after the loss confirmed my initial misdiagnosis of his character. His words reverberated in my mind.
“If you live for the same God that I live for, what is for you is for you. What is not, is not. All you can do is come back and be better. You have to hold your head high for the way that we played. When you teach those lessons to your children you have to live by them yourself.” http://bit.ly/gtzxLL
Lewis made an impression on me that helped me preach the values of winning to my son.
My advice for all my boys is that winning can be achieved through the solace of maximum effort even when they aren’t rewarded with victory. Constantly strive to improve yourself, your community, and the lives of those around you. Be able to get back up one more time than you fall.
For if it will be, then it will be.