Saturday, September 11, 2010

going for it

In the epilogue to The Madness of March I write about how sport fans are occasionally disparaged by people who believe they should "get a life".

Today, there would not have been many better ways to spend this day of one's life than by enjoying sports. Since noon Eastern there has been football, basketball, tennis, and baseball to watch on television. In Boston, the weather was beautiful--a great day to run, take a canoe on the Charles, play touch football or kick a soccer ball around. I do have other hobbies, and I do have other "lives", but today was a day to frolic watching and playing sports.

I'm not sure there will ever be a tennis match as exciting as the semi finals today between Federer and Djokivic. And, beyond the fun of watching the game, the match was valuable as a lesson--as so many sporting events can be.

When I played club tennis competitively I used to tell my teammates that when the game was close at the end, it was not a matter of athletic skill. It was a matter of backbone. In the final set of a match it was no longer who had the better serve, it was who had the stomach to win.

Federer is one of my favorite tennis players. He doesn't squawk, he plays brilliantly, and is as gracious on those rare times when he loses as when he is victorious. But this afternoon he was beaten. And he was beaten because Djokivic in the final set, "went for it". Facing two match points on his serve, Djokivic wailed on a couple of shots that, had he not made them, would have made him a loser. But he went for them. He put it on the line, took a chance to be as good as he could be. And he won. In the final analysis, he beat Federer--a man with a sturdy backbone himself--because he had the courage to do what he needed to do--he went for it.

Sports are fun in and of themselves. Today Michigan beat Notre Dame in the last seconds. Last night West Virginia stunned Marshall by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come back for a victory. Earlier today, James Madison University, a team that plays in the college football subdivision out of tiny Harrisonburg, Virginia, beat mighty Virginia Tech ranked thirteen in the country.

While sport can be exciting in and of itself, it often transcends itself and provides a lesson to spectators beyond the victories and losses. And today the message in Djokivic's victory--to any who had the courage to listen--was this: if you want to reach the high note--you have to go for it.

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