Sometimes there is a split-second difference before becoming a hero, or just staying the exact same way you were.
It’s fourth down. Fifteen seconds left to play. Your team is down by seven. You need a touchdown right here, right now. Everybody is on the edge of his or her seat.
Half the crowd is hopeful. Half the crowd is willing that ball to sail out of the arms of its intended receiver. But for those few moments before, everything is a possibility. No one knows what will happen for sure, but everyone is wishing and praying that what he or she wants will come true.
I find that sports have good analogies for life. Maybe it’s just because sports are a huge part of my life, whether it be playing or watching them, but either way I find that the whole winning and losing aspect, the 50-50 probability, helps me to understand other things better.
In history class Friday morning we talked a lot about the importance of the Civil Rights Movement and the importance of remembering Martin Luther King Jr. We looked at photos - disturbing photos - of the way that African Americans were treated. We listened to his "I Have A Dream" speech. I almost cried.
Ernie Davis was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. He was an All-American running back for Syracuse University in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was drafted to the NFL, but before he could play a single down, was diagnosed with Leukemia and died at the age of 23.
They were both heroes. They just came about it in different ways.
I don’t think that being a hero is limited to whether people know your name or whether or not people talk day and night about your speeches, your call to actions, your rallies, or your inspirational quotations. Being a hero is more than that.
When there is 12 seconds left in the basketball game and you're playing on your home court, down two, with your opponent on the free-throw line, there seems to be a possibility for a hero’s moment. The opponent misses. Your teammate gets the ball. He fires it down court to you in a forceful pass. Five seconds left. Four. Three. Two. You shoot.
Pause the play.
See, if this ball goes in, everyone cheering for him sees him as a hero. If it doesn’t, then the other half of the crowd instantly rejoices in his presence. However, it really doesn’t matter that much if it goes in or not. See I love sports, but the thing it fails to capture is this:
It’s just a game.
A game is a game. You and I, we’ll both have bad games and good games. Good days and bad days. Games when we shot 12 percent from the free-throw line and games where we shot 90. Our heroism shouldn’t be based on whether or not a simple shot goes in.
Heroism is the ability to move on, live, breathe, and continue with life when it doesn’t. It’s the ability to tolerate when reporters taunt you with questions, asking what you wished you could have done differently. Well, the answer to that question is always the same.
There are a lot of things that I wish I could have done differently.
We have a quotation from Martin Luther King Jr. on a placard sitting in our house. It reads, "Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase." Maybe that is what being a hero means.
Having courage, valor, strength, when it doesn’t look like anything is going to get any brighter.
That basket didn’t go in.
Half the crowd cheered. The other half lifted their hands to their lips in shock. In a split-second it was over. In a split-second everything had changed.
Sometimes sports don’t really help me understand things better. They only make things seem more jumbled and confusing. But they have taught me a lot. Especially, how winning isn’t everything.
See, losing in itself, is a kind of winning. It teaches you how to deal with things in the real world, control your emotions and move on.
Now, that I can understand.
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