Loving those who love to compete


“Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.” —Shaquille O’Neal

When I took a job in the computer field I could not grasp the configuration of a network. I remember looking at a diagram of a basic computer network with a server, router, and several workstations. Never one to comprehend anything that could be labeled as a map, I took very little from that. How did each piece communicate with the others?

Eventually, despite the frustration of the real techies that trained me, I got the gist of it and I was able to spot the structure of the thing. A network is like a team comprised of components (players), each with their own special duty. And if they do their jobs, the network hums.

I wonder if I had trouble grasping this concept because I’ve never been much of a team player. Not in a “leave it all to me because I can do it better” way. And not in a rebellious free spirited kind of way that would make me seem like an elusive gypsy type, which is too bad because that would be really cool.

No, unfortunately, its more of an “I stink” kind of way.

I stink at team sports, that is. Always have. A home run at a softball game was my first contribution to a team sport. I was 12.

Did I mention that was also the last time I made any kind of contribution? That’s it. Unless you count managing the football team in high school. That did earn me a football letter and I wore an official jersey during the games. Come to think of it, I recorded a few stats so I’ll go ahead and count that one. That’s really it.

Our P.E. teacher even let me and a couple friends watch from the bleachers on dodge ball days. How bad do you have to be to get benched in dodge ball?

This aversion to team sports prevented me from playing, but it hasn’t stopped me from watching. I can’t experience a player’s love of the game, but from the stands I find all the emotion I want.

I am amazed by the extreme athletes who put everything they have into their sport. And it’s more amazing to know that all we see is the culmination of a hundred pieces, merging on the field, track, court, pool or other. The training, nutrition, and strategies connecting piece by piece exactly when they need to.

Now that the Olympics have started, we can watch the best of the best pushing further than they were ever intended to go. The Olympics sets up country against country but the real stories are the individuals. There is definitely an I in team. When each I does their job, the team is better for it. If one is broken, the team is broken.

The Olympics are also a nice break from salary caps and signing bonuses that fill up the majority of the Sports Center news. I’m always ready for the NFL season, but hearing offers like $20 million to please not play (referring to Brett Favre) is enough to make anybody swear off professional sports out of principle.

Of course in Favre’s situation, that didn’t work out and he left Green Bay, a team he’s been an “I” in for 16 seasons—basically his entire career. He’s a perfect reminder that a team is just a network of individual players because Green Bay will go on without him. Apparently Favre is a New York Jet now and he’ll play again—for the love of the game.

As will the gymnasts and swimmers and other Olympic contenders. They’ll wrap up their years of training and hopes in the few minutes it takes for their one shot—for the love of the game.

And it’s so worth watching—if for no other reason than for the love of their love of the game.


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