SB49: What’s Next?

Today, the Seattle Seahawks lost Superbowl XLIX to the New England Patriots.

It is a loss that will leave a burning hole in the hearts of Seahawks fans for a long while.

I’m a very competitive person which, in tandem with the fact that I never really played sports as a kid, is part of the reason I don’t often root for sports teams. When I become invested in a competition, no matter what it is, I’m all in. I’m the person who’s screaming at the top of her lungs at the first quarter. I’m the person who gets mad at the TV. And I’m the person who cries when her team loses. I definitely did today.

It’s exhausting to be all in. But when it comes to the Seahawks, I’m all in.

I married into Seahawks fandom. My husband is a die-hard Seahawks fan. In the earliest years of our marriage, back in the days of Matt Hasselbeck and Mike Holmgren, when I got my first real taste of what it was like to be married to a member of the 12th Man, I remember wondering if I would’ve still married him had I known he was this much of a crazy fan. I couldn’t understand it at first, not only because I couldn’t understand the game but because I couldn’t understand why anyone would be so invested in a game. It’s not like these guys are fighting cancer or building homeless shelters. They’re playing a game, and they’re making millions of dollars doing it. What’s the big deal? Why should I care?

Then I got to know the players’ stories. I started listening to their interviews. I started learning about the mechanics of the game, the rigors of training, the pressures of their careers. I started to watch the games – really watch the games – week after week, both the ones that ended with a win and those that ended with a loss. I watched them all with eyes open, and I learned.

I learned that football is more than just a game. A win in football isn’t just a W, and a loss is not just an L. The whole season is a battle of attrition. It’s a trial of the mind. It’s a test of grit, of brotherhood, and of strength of character. It’s really a microscopic view of life.

As I watched this team journey through their losses and their wins, and as I listened to them speak the same consistent message week in and week out, I learned something very valuable. Life keeps going in spite of the loss. The world will keep turning, tomorrow will come, and with it a new game to play. Not only is it an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, to try and wash away the pain of today’s defeat. It’s a reminder that your job isn’t done. Defeat doesn’t mean game over, it doesn’t mean you get to take a break, and it certainly doesn’t mean you get to call it quits. Defeat is just another brick on the road you have to walk. You earn the right to walk that road with your head held high if you play the game with your best, day in and day out, whether people are watching or not.

It’s forced me to take a closer look at the way I approach the challenges in my own life. Do I overcome or make excuses? Do I speak positivity or spew negativity? Do I capitalize on adversity or succumb to difficulty? Do I really fight for the dreams that are in my heart – I mean really fight, with blood, sweat, and tears? Or do I give up on myself before I’ve exhausted every chance to win?

I know these guys are getting paid a lot of money to do what they do, but that’s besides the point. I used to think that their paychecks ought to demand the kind of effort they are required to put in. But the fact is this is the life they chose, and these guys – at least the guys in the team I’m rooting for – put in the work because they are invested in themselves. They are determined to be the best at what they do, to make a difference, to earn their place. Many of them had to claw their way into their positions. Nobody had any high expectations for them; some of them were clinging to the edge of their careers when they came into this team. And the truth is their careers are always on the edge of oblivion – one bad injury could put an end to everything in half a second.

But what the rest of us common people tend to forget, from the comfort of our couches and the safety of our 9-5 cubicles, is that the same can be said for us. The same can be said for anyone.

Tomorrow, I might not be able to do the things I can do today. I might not have the ability or the opportunity to make a difference. And the gifts that I have at my disposal today could waste away if I don’t diligently care for them, nurture them, or use them.

Nothing is guaranteed for these million-dollar football players, and nothing is guaranteed for me. I can’t allow the disparity between their paychecks and mine to excuse any lack of effort on my part, because we are all subject to the same level of uncertainty. Life is given to us and life is taken away, and it’s up to each of us to make every day count. My paycheck might be small compared to theirs, but my legacy doesn’t have to be small. Your life is only as big or as small as you make it; your paycheck is neither a qualifier nor a limiter for the good that you do in the world.

So today, I’m proud to say that I’m a fan. In spite of my best efforts to remain disengaged, to stay uninterested, and to keep my Sundays stress-free, I have become invested in this team. Today is going to be tough to live down. However, like I said in the beginning of this post, when I become invested in competition, I’m all in. This loss will leave a burning hole in my heart, but it doesn’t mean game over. It doesn’t mean I get to take a break (even though I really want to call in sick tomorrow so I can eat donuts and cry all day long). It definitely doesn’t mean I get to call it quits. In this moment, I’m already thinking about how my best tomorrow can be better than my best today. I’m thinking about how I can earn my right to walk my own road with my head held high. Because I might not be a Seahawks player, but I’m a Seahawks fan. And this is what I’ve learned by becoming one: win or lose, competitors never end the day by saying, “It’s over.”

We end the day by saying, “What’s next?”

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