Previously on TLAT... Part 1
We lost the game. And it hurt. Bad. Worse than I thought. I told my wife that no matter what happens, I will be proud of the accomplishments that this team made. And I was, but I was disappointed. 3 inches separated us from glory. In that moment all I could think about was what might have been. I forgot all about what they had pulled off to get them to this point.
But as the hours after the game passed by, the dust settled, the emotions calmed and I was able to think clearly, I realize that what we had just gone through was a play-by-play of life. A free stage production of our daily struggle. Granted it's just a game, but try telling that to the emotional roller coaster I just went on for the past 5 months.
So how was the 2014 WSU Basketball season like life?
1. Life IS a series of emotional highs and lows.
This one is easy to see the similarities. WSU's ride to the top was one steady uphill climb. With each win they got higher and higher, to where it seemed like there was no end. Usually "good" teams win 8 in a row, lose one or two, win another 6, lose 3, but ultimately win enough to send them to the big dance. But WSU won, and won, and won again and again. With each win we knew the stakes were higher for an emotional let down of epic proportions.
People like to say that life is a roller coaster, and it is. But sometimes it feels that.the sky is the limit. Ultimately, life spares no one. Soon the bottom will drop out, and the higher you are, the harder you fall.
Most of my hardcore Wichita State friends can't even watch the rest of the NCAA tourney because it still stings so bad. That's because we had yet to experience loss. We felt it after we lost to Kentucky.
2. People will often judge you by the content of your character and less by your accomplishments.
We are a society that loves talent. We have a ton of reality shows that reward talent. We give our most gifted athletes millions of dollars to perform. We want to see winners. But I'd rather see a humble loser than an arrogant winner any day.
Fred Van Vleet is the player who took that last shot and missed it. But every player interviewed afterwards said there is no one who they would have rather had take that shot than Fred Van Vleet. A week prior to the start of the NCAA tournament the Shox won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Something they had not done in many decades. As the final buzzer sounded some of the players for the Shockers began to celebrate. Fred Van Vleet calmed the players down quickly and said something along the lines of "Hey guys, let's go congratulate the other team first and we can celebrate in the locker room."
That is class. This kid is classy from top to bottom. It's remarkable how much this was mentioned in the press. If you are a humble, intelligent athlete then often those qualities will be mentioned even before they talk about your athletic ability. People want to know that good still exists out there. This is why Tim Tebow was mentioned in the press months after he was cut from the NFL. Humility speaks volumes.
3. Life is about losing.
Wichita State's goal was to go undefeated at 40-0. It would have been unprecedented. But it was our destiny. Everyone in Wichita thought it was possible. Most believed it was going to happen. Gregg Marshall had built this unstoppable 5-headed monster that made even the best player in the nation crumble at it's combined ability. But Kentucky answered the call. And they defeated us by 2 points. We lost. That is life. Life is a cruel thing sometimes. It can take you down in your prime. People get fired from jobs just as they start to excel. People find out they have cancer when they are at peak physical condition. Loss eventually falls upon us all. God often chooses to let us fail when we are on top of the world. It's what keeps us grounded. Unfortunately there is no way to be sure of anything, ever.
But out of loss we excel as we learn from it. Sometimes it takes a storm to really know the light. Sometimes God gives us problems to let us know only He can solve them. Losing hurts, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. If you learn to use it to focus and improve then you can do almost anything. You just have to prepare to try more than once.
WSU will be back next year and once again they will be a force to be reckoned with. Can't wait to see what life lessons they have for us next time.. Hopefully they will teach us what it's like to be National Champions. I'd like to learn about that.