Sports are awesome.
It was a great weekend in my house with competitive athletics at the forefront. Sometimes, the love of sports gets me in trouble. I get too emotional—specifically, upset—when things veer off the expected course.
But sports also deliver those lessons and moments that just can’t be replicated elsewhere.
For instance, allow me a moment to be a proud daddy:
My oldest and I took off for Red Cloud early Sunday morning for a youth wrestling tournament. The meet was going well until the final match, when that one mistake every wrestler dreads came to my 12-year-old.
Now, if you’re not familiar with wrestling—and I’m a novice at the very best—my son was put in a headlock and lying on his back. Just 15 seconds into the period, it was incredibly likely he was going to get pinned. Trying to fight off your back with a like-weight individual lying across your chest with his arms locked around your arm and neck takes a lot of energy.
Still, he didn’t give up. He fought and fought and remained in the match until the end of the period. Trailing 7-2 going into the third and gasping for air, he had one shot to try and end it before he ran out of gas. In just three seconds, he threw his opponent to his back, got the pin, and secured first place.
Now, understand, I am proud of him for winning. If we’re going to compete, we want to win. But that’s not why I bring this up.
In competitive realms—not just athletics—perseverance and determination are not lessons that can be learned with a book or a lecture.
They have to be experienced.
You have to first persevere to really understand what perseverance is. I’ve seen my son battle before in competition, but not like that. He refused to give up or give in. That’s the part that really makes me proud.
Saturday evening, the RPAC Basketball Championship took place in McCook. The Cambridge girls reached the final for the third time in four years, but their seniors had yet to win a title. They were squaring off against Dundy County-Stratton, a squad that had denied them the championship in their last two appearances. For a myriad of reasons, this has not been the easiest of seasons for the girls on that basketball team, but Saturday night, they earned the title, managing quite the turnaround from a 2-6 start.
As sports reporters, we tell people that we don’t root for teams, we root for stories.
To see that group of girls accomplish a feat that has eluded them before was a special story, indeed.
Then came Sunday night. The Kansas City Chiefs again created a situation for themselves that looked dire, but came through it to win their first Super Bowl in 50 years.
I’m a Packers fan, but a soft spot has always been there for the Chiefs, mostly because every member of my family is a Chiefs fan, as are so many of my friends. But they’ve been a miserable bunch for a very long time, not because they’ve been awful, but because even when they’re good, there’s always an awful ending.
Combine that with the Big Red coach, Andy Reid, who’s been as successful as anyone else that’s done the job for 20 years, but, like the Chiefs, has always had a calamitous ending.
But the endearing thing about Reid is that he’s never made it about himself. He made it emphatically clear that the “never won the big one” story didn’t bother him.
He was in it for the struggle and the process that is football.
Yet, when the game ended and the media focused in on the coach that finally won the big one, he absolutely could’ve basked in the glory. Not one person would’ve blamed him. Instead, Reid went on ESPN’s postgame show and deflected every ounce of praise to someone else, even going so far as to change the subject to show host Randy Moss’s son, who recently won the national title at LSU.
There’s no greater example of the fruits of hard work and humility than Andy Reid. He sort of reminds you of another redhead that patrolled a football sideline for decades before winning the big one.
I understand why athletics turn some people off.
Well, I don’t, but I can try. Athletics tend to get hijacked by the self-absorbed and arrogant, the trash-talking and the dirty.
But if you can sit back and sift through all that, you can find the life lessons, the purity of focus and effort, and the inspiration.
Those are what made this weekend a great weekend in the Gerlach house.
This post originally appeared in The Valley Voice and Frontier County Enterprise.