I used to think that asking questions of athletes who either failed individually or as part of a team was the toughest thing in the world. Could the depths of despair be any worse?
Every so often I need a reminder that they can be.
As it happens, the wake-up call came this week. With our crack spot news reporters Jenna Martin and Valerie Rowell already out on assignment, I was left to go cover the drowning of a 3-year-old girl.
Because the address wasn’t close to our office, I didn’t arrive while paramedics and other first responders were on the scene. I saw enough anguish from witnesses there, however, to put things in perspective.
The people on the scene didn’t want to talk to me and I didn’t blame them one bit. They had just experienced the most traumatic event (hopefully) of their lives. They didn’t want to recount it to a stranger – especially to one who had not just gone through that type of experience.
When I get a quote from a losing player, it isn’t done to humiliate them or make them feel worse. It is to get their account of events that unfolded and the emotions they are experiencing.
I love sports and what they can and do represent. But ultimately they are not life-and-death. For high school students, sports can be a means to an end. They can mean a free ride or partial scholarships to a college or university. Many of us follow teams from the time we are little, and they represent a source of institutional pride. For coaches, sports may represent their livelihood.
Everybody who plays has one goal in mind: winning. Not everyone will achieve that goal.
I admit, when my team loses I can’t even watch highlights of the game. And when my team is on the field afterward, smiling, happy and talking to guys from the other team, it upsets me a little.
I guess those guys have played and experienced enough to know what I needed to be reminded of: Our personal worth shouldn’t be based on the win-loss column. The sting of losing eventually goes away.
When it’s a game.