OK... I will admit it. I'm a Winter Olympic junkie. Not so much the Summer Olympics... only the Winter ones. This dates back to my childhood before coverage was quite so ubiquitous and overwhelming. Back when I was young and formational... not jaded and cynical. "Miracle" is required annual watching in our house. And I'm not beyond explaining the tactics of curling to my less than curious son.
I was watching with my daughter the other night and NBC cut away for one of their story pieces that inevitably involved some disabled sibling of one of the stars and how they pushed them to do better.
My daughter turned to me and said... "This is like a soap opera."
I responded, "Yes!!! But with sports!!!"
She rolled her eyes as she is wont to do. But she understood. And in fact, I understood for the first time. That little interchange was an epiphany of sorts for me. I love sports. I love competition. But I realize that one can spend too much time agonizing about them... cheering victory or rueing defeat. They are a waste of time. An escape. They do not profit my life. Nor do they add to the world.
And yet... they do. They are microcosms of life, cut and dried into one 60 minute game, or one 2 minute downhill run, or one toss of the stone. And NBC has gotten this for a long time. That the competition in a vacuum isn't worth much. But the competition with the background allows us all to grab on and empathize. To grab on to the epic battles that are life. They teach us to appreciate our own battles more fully.
On Sunday, I watched my son in an epic battle of his own. It was our own little Miracle on Ice... albeit on roller blades instead of skates. Our team fought and skated and played better than they have ever played in their life against the perennial champion team that is captained by one of the best young players in the country. My son in goal to challenge this Goliath. Our team got down. They fought back. They got ahead. My son making save after save, and the team entered the third period with a three goal lead. And then Goliath turned it on, picking top shelf shots that my son simply couldn't reach, and slamming slapshots as hard as he could. The defense was exhausted and my son was the last line of defense. And he began to crack. One goal. Then another... and a then a third to tie it. And then the unthinkable and this giant scored a fourth to take the lead. With a minute to go, my son was pulled to add an extra player in a desperate attempt to tie the game. And they somehow did. Sneaking a goal past their goalie. 10-10... and the game was going to overtime. The boys on my son's team were exhausted, having played so hard. And the other team attacked... the Goliath shooting from all sides... blocker save, pad save, stick save...
I watched it in slow motion, my heart hurting for what I knew would come. A pass from our defenseman that was a little too slow. Goliath jumped it... and then it was just he and my son. He faked forehand, and my son laid out trying to poke check it away... but Goliath calmly moved to his backhand and pushed the puck slowly into the goal in the six inch gap that my son left because he is just that much too short. Game over.
It was truly epic. But there are winners and losers. In the locker room he cried and in anguish looked at me and said "I don't want to do this anymore..." I knew the feeling... and I knew he didn't mean it. Because it is life. And more than anything in life sports teaches you that when the puck gets behind you and into the goal... it is truly behind you... and there is nothing you can do to change it. The only thing to do is get up and focus on the next puck coming at you.
And he did... in another hour he played his second game of the day against a different team, and made some of the greatest saves I've ever seen him make.
It is a soap opera... this life... but with sports.
OK.. off to watch me some curling.
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