In the days following 9/11/01, many Americans used professional sporting events as a vehicle for healing. In Major League Baseball, the singing of Talk Me Out to the Ball Game was replaced with God Bless America. At the first Monday Night Football Game in the NFL, a sense of patriotism swept through the crowd, causing tears to flow from my eyes as a giant flag, shaped like the United States of America was stretched across the entire field. During this period in time, winning wasn’t the only thing. Rather, playing these games symbolized a sense of normalcy to proclaim to the world, “America will carry on.”
Meanwhile, another community experienced a similar tragedy, placing sports into its proper perspective. The 2006 film We Are Marshall is based upon the death of 37 football players, 5 coaches, 25 boosters and other staff who perished in a plane crash near Huntington, West Virginia. Despite wanting to remain competitive, winning had to be placed on the back burner. To honor the memory of these people, the school president was nudged by students to field a team to fill the void left behind. In a stirring scene, Matthew McConaughey, who plays head coach Jack Lengyel, redefines winning to include playing with all your heart for 60 minutes. “If you do this, we can not lose!”
Today, competition has a wide scope from school districts who have banned keeping score to the hard core who keep score in everything they do. For me, sports was a refuge, a place where I excelled. The more success I tasted, the cockier I became. Yet, like many things in life, athletic competition has a way of humbling the proud, bringing each star back down to earth. However, when I finally gave up my pursuit of playing professional golf, only then did I understand winning isn;t everything. Whether you have the talent or not, give your dream a shot and let the chips fall where they may. In the end, winning isn’t as important as knowing that you did everything you could to maximize your God given talents.
by Jay Mankus