Monday, October 12, 2009

Mighty Phoenix Mercury Inspires Courage in Daily Life

I am a happy fan. My favorite team, the Phoenix Mercury, recently won the Women’s National Basketball Association title. As I watched the games, I was mostly caught up in the excitement of cheering for the home team. But the following day, I thought about how these gifted athletes provided a lesson in winning on and off the court.

Each Mercury player is extremely talented. But any sports fan knows that individual talent is not what wins team championships. You must be able to work together as a highly tuned unit. I watched in awe as the Mercury ran, passed and took shots with the elegance of a tightly choreographed Broadway production.

That is not to say that everything is pretty. These gals were knocked on their butts, took elbows to the face, only to charge forward and muscle their way to the hoop to make shots, grab rebounds, or block shots by their worthy opponents, the Indiana Fever.

I don’t know all the injuries that took place, but I know for sure that Penny Taylor was playing with a broken finger and had a tooth knocked loose in an earlier game. Cappie Poindexter was whacked in the eye and had to leave the game because she couldn’t see. Fortunately, Cappie had no severe optical damage and she returned with a vengeance, knocking in important buckets at crucial times, in spite of a swollen black eye. Diana Taurasi always plays like it’s the last minute of her life. I don’t know what injuries she sustained, but the way she attacks the game, I’m sure returns home with more than her fair share of cuts and bruises.

As I was taking a walk the day after the championship, I thought about how the game mirrored life. These gals were knocked down, beaten up, and yet they kept on driving forward. They didn’t let losses, pain, the possibility of significant injury or any other factor deter them from their goal. When I saw Cappie Poindexter return to the court, I actually winced. I thought about her eye and all those flying elbows. I was really concerned about her welfare. And then, as if she could read my thoughts, she answered by swishing a basket with nothing but net.

The point is, we all face hardships. And we all will be knocked on our butts from time to time. We can boldly move ahead, tip toe with caution, or cower in a corner. The choice is ours. But winners, whether on or off the court, are not timid about living.

To bring this back to a personal level, as I was thinking about the game, and what I was going to write about it, I passed a neighbor and her dog. We exchanged “Good mornings” without breaking stride. I passed the woman on her left (the dog was on her right), then her German Shepherd turned around and bit me on my thigh.

This was quite a shock to me as I did not stop to pet the dog, I was in a good, not fearful mood, and I didn’t do anything to provoke an attack. I informed the woman her dog had just bitten me. I quickly learned the dog was up to date on her shots, had never bitten anyone before. Lucky me. If I were going to be the first for something I would prefer something less painful.

Anyway, the owner, a nurse, told me how to care for the wound and I left. I suppose I should have collected her name and phone number, but I was more concerned about taking care of the business at hand. Fortunately, everything is fine. It was more of a bruise than a puncture, my tetanus shot is up to date, and I’m going to be fine.

But the next day I didn’t want to go for a walk.

Then I thought about the Phoenix Mercury. What if Penny Taylor, who knocked in 14 points in the final game, decided to sit the game out and nurse her wounds? What would have happened if Cappie Poindexter decided to go shopping to find a pair of sunglasses to hide her shiner instead of courageously racking up 24 points? Who could have predicted the outcome if Diana Taurasi said, “enough is enough” and headed for the hot tub instead of driving to the basket?

And I’d be neglect in my duties if I didn’t mention the outstanding contributions of the entire roster of DeWanna Bonner, Temeka Johnson, Nicole Ohlde, Brooke Smith, Tangela Smith, Le’Coe Willingham and Ketia Swanier.

It is easy to be optimistic when everything is going great. The true strength of one’s character is how one reacts to adversity. One of my favorite lines from the movie, “A League of Their Own” when baseball star, Dottie Hinson, wants to quit the team.

Jimmy Dugan: Shit, Dottie, if you want to go back to Oregon and make a hundred babies, great, I'm in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It's what lights you up, you can't deny that.
Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard.
Jimmy Dugan: It's supposed to be hard! If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.

We all may wish for an easy life, but if we think back to the things that we are the most proud of, it is not the easy wins, it’s the times where we struggled and won that bring us the most satisfaction.

In my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, I interviewed men and women who overcame adversity and chose a more optimistic life. They could have given up, but they didn’t. So unless I want to be a hypocrite, I need to practice what I preach, or write about. I’m going to end this story now and go look for my shoes. It’s time to take a walk.

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