There are those moments. More memorable than erasable. When someone gets what you’ve wanted all your life…and it will never happen to you.
I watched the NCAA basketball tournament selections yesterday, especially when a particular school was “live on television” as their name was given…an “invitation to the dance.” Such jumping and shouts of joy, “WE MADE IT!!!”
The responses are often less than the exuberance when that never happened to you…or me.
Took me back to my last high school basketball game, Jefferson High School [the good guys, of course] against the Franklin High School [who could never be the good guys that night]. The winner would go to the Oregon large high school basketball tournament in Eugene. We had the best player on the planet [that’s how I experienced it although I only knew Terry Baker.] He was phenomenal and versatile. He pitched a baseball right-handed, threw a football left-handed and shot basketballs with both.
He went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Oregon State and was All-American in both basketball and football. Played some NFL ball for the, then, Los Angeles Rams and has been a successful attorney in Portland.
That night, my role, to make sure I got assists when Terry made his jump shot, was in a nip and tuck game. I do remember making the first 3 shots and my 4th shot stopped the game. Not because the sound was “swish” through the net. Nope. It was “clank” as it broke the rim. I flat-out broke the rim. Game stopped. They got the janitor from a coffee break—he obviously couldn’t have cared less about the game. Took him more than long to find another rim. Finally. Whew. We got back to the game.
Went into overtime, they blanketed Terry with 2 and sometimes 3 defenders and THEY WON. I remember the ache. And the pain. We never made the State Tournament and we had the best player on the planet. Damn.
That clanged experience came to me yesterday and faded in the same moment.
Because there’s another way to respond when someone gets what you’ve wanted and never get there.
It can be joy and affirmation.
That’s what I felt last night. Particularly when Northwestern was selected. The jumping and shouting and hugging and flat-out JOY. I loved it. As well as for the teams I had never heard of, let alone what state they are in.
It was their 15 minutes. And, of course, even those ranked 16th, a future before them longer than 15 minutes. To pass. To shoot. To be on the roll for victories.
That’s a scenario that each of us experiences…probably less drama. But never. Never ever. Less feeling. All the time. When the rim doesn’t clang. When the shot banks in for a score.
If somehow we can know that our life doesn’t have to be shaped by not getting there. It can be shaped by effort, by knowing in our heart you don’t catch a steelhead every cast. And there are days. When the nets remain empty. And you’ve cast off both sides of the boat.
That, too, can be good. So much better than moping, gnashing teeth, and lamenting. For life has its lament. But. It can also have its best moments. As long as we don’t lessen our own goodness and value. And don’t ever only live up to our minimum.