Friday, April 8, 2011

a dream deferred

There is a fine line between acknowledging a loss and failure, and feeling good about yourself because you fought hard to succeed even if you were unsuccessful.

The Butler Bulldogs lost to the UCONN Huskies last Monday night. None of the players on the Butler team are good enough to play professionally. What the players and the team did was miraculous. Just like the previous year, the Bulldogs won five consecutive games in a very competitive tournament to earn the rights to play for a championship. In 2010 they came within a last shot of being victorious. In 2011 they were determined to win the championship game.

Butler does not have a single player who would get meaningful playing time for Connecticut. Not one. Their two best players might not even make Connecticut's team. Yet they worked industriously and indefatigably on defense, had an offensive scheme that really was the stuff of genius, and had a chance, for a second year, to win the championship.

Not only did they lose, they looked on this championship night, as if they had no right to be playing. Nobody could make a shot. They had an awful, as in terribly awful, shooting night. I played some basketball in high school and college. Every single one of the players on Butler could beat me on my best day 15-0 in a game of one on one, 90 times out of 100. But on Monday night I have never seen a team, on any level, shoot so poorly. They could not drop a bar of soap in a bathtub.

So, not only did Butler lose, but they were embarrassed. And they had come so close.

The Butler players should feel good about themselves nevertheless because they had gotten so close.

But it must be difficult to hold onto feelings of self respect and at the same time acknowledge that you really messed up.

So, how do you handle this if you are a Butler Bulldog? You have got to be true to yourself and acknowledge that you did not score on the big stage. And at the same time you can not let this one event define you. Failure can haunt you, and an inability to reach a dream can be debilitating. I feel for the Bulldogs. As I have written in this blog before about similar competitive failures, the biggest challenge for athletes--and all others-- who have lost, is not to delude themselves that they have won--because in fact they did lose. But rather to understand that one loss does not define them however upsetting the defeat might be.


  1. Butler picked the wrong day to bottom out. This game will be a sharp stick in the eye for Butler forever. 18 % shooting. They should have lost by 30. I'm willing to bet a dinner with tax, tip, and wine - anywhere between Boston and Austin- that Shelvin Mack has an NBA career ahead of him. Is it too late to retract my opinion of Matt what's his name.

  2. Maybe you are right, Gene. But I think he is just an okay point guard. Wouldn't mind sharing dinner someplace, though.