When it comes to sports, I’m a New England fan all the way. The NFL is no different but as I watched the Patriots play their way into the Superbowl I wasn’t as excited as I should have been.
I had just gotten done explaining the rules of overtime to my German friends when Billy Cundiff, the Ravens kicker, lined up and shanked the routine field goal. I honestly felt more sorrow for him than excitement for the Patriots. You can call me a bad fan but if you felt absolutely no tug of sympathy for that guy than you simply have no heart. Now, maybe it’s the girl in me but, couldn’t we have just won the game in overtime??
I can commiserate with him, well, sort of. I’ve missed my fair share of big shots and big games. And when I think of those moments it still hurts my soul. Even when I just think of close games I’ve lost that our team should have won it still saddens me. The state basketball title from 2003? Yup, I remember it; clear as day. I can still feel the sadness and emptiness I felt nine years ago when we lost, and how much I, as a senior and leader of our team, felt responsible.
And that was just high school.
That kicker, Cundiff, is living his dream, getting paid to play football, and on center stage at the playoffs! But at that moment in time and for weeks, months, and probably even years to come that kicker will, in some ways, be no different than me or you. He’s human, he makes mistakes, and no amount of money can change that or help him move on. In fact, this guy has to face thousands of criticizers as he talks to the media.
But like myself and many others, he chose sports as a career and he knew what that meant. Athletes see their sport as a love/hate thing. As an athlete you learn that you have to take the bad with the good, the highs and the lows. It’s like a relationship: it’s not going to be perfect; you just have to decide if the positives outweigh the negatives. Will you be able to stand up in moments of failure? To face pressure and another opportunity to be great? And can you pick yourself back up and BE the hero?
There are so many great things about sports. They teach you life’s lessons and have the power to give you chances to succeed, but only if you are willing to take them. I know that you are in the NFL, Mr. Cundiff, and make more money than I ever will, but you’ll get another chance. I know you won’t forget that missed field goal but (and this from a Patriots fan) I just hope your triumphant moments can outshine it.