Pretty Ugly: We Didn’t Have A Prayer

West Virginia v Maryland
Sports is full of oxymorons. An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes elements that appear to be contradictory. Team names like the “Fighting Quakers” comes immediately to mind. And for those that don’t know, Quakers are pacifists, meaning they don’t believe in fighting but instead take “turn the other cheek” quite literally. I went to a Quaker school in Philly (so ask me how I know). And saying we “didn’t have a prayer” is certainly an oxymoron, because there is always hope; but you’re gotta have hope in order for there to be hope. 

Other examples of oxymorons in sports include “boxing ring,” “warming down,” and “forward lateral.” Everyone knows that a boxing “ring” is square, that you warm up when you’re cold, not down, (after a work-out you cool off, but surely I digress) and you can’t go forward and move laterally at the same time. And here’s another one you can add to the list: the Maryland/West Virginia game in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament last night was pretty ugly.

The Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball Team had a great season with an awful ending. By most standards and all accounts, the Terps over-achieved and over-reached and over-performed and had a record-setting season; they won a ton of games, but just came up short at the end. Unfortunately, their season did not match their play last night.

Last night, oxymorons were everywhere and allusions abounded. The Terps played with sharp dullness and tired energy and sloppy efficiency. They turned the ball over 21 TIMES! Twenty-One times! Seriously? And Melo Trimble got hurt, so any hope of winning went out the door when he went down on the floor. Oh well. But even with Melo the Terps were amazingly unexceptional and happily horrible. Last night was painful and stressful and awful and woeful; on the other hand, the entire length of this all of a sudden short season, a.k.a., the season as a whole, was exciting and exhilarating and thrilling and bone chilling. Go figure. And such is life.

In life you learn to take the good with the bad and the ups with the downs and the wins with the losses. You learn to accept the incongruities and the ambiguities of a good team going cold or a bad team getting hot. It’s called living and dying with your team and loving and hating them simultaneously all at the same time. You have to learn to run slow and walk fast and to be nasty with a smile, all at once.

So keep your heads up, Terp Fans. Dez Wells and Melo Trimble are the ones that got us to the Big Dance, and you’re supposed to dance with the girl that you got, not the one you’re trying to get. And she’s still our “girl” even though the dance last night was pretty ugly. But with Mello and the rest of the freshman coming back, we’re actually sitting pretty.

In sports, there are oodles of oxymorons. There’s crying and amidst and alongside the celebration, because only one team can win the last game of the season. Only one team can walk off of the court and say that they went out on top. And only one team can cut down the nets. So far, Kentucky is still the front-runner, with Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona and Gonzaga all close seconds, nipping at their heels.

And so may the Best Team (Kentucky?) win. But that too, can be an oxymoron. And I borrow this clip from Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post:

The thing to remember about Maryland’s season-ending, 69-59 loss to West Virginia on Sunday night wasn’t the final score. It wasn’t the aesthetics, either; West Virginia’s manic style could make the Harlem Globetrotters look sloppy. And it certainly wasn’t the ending — after Melo Trimble was sidelined by two blows to the head, things fell apart, fans in yellow roaring as the typically composed Terps unraveled.

No, the moment to remember came in the first half, when the Terps were still streaking up and down the court with a lineup featuring Trimble, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens and Michal Cekovsky. That’s four freshmen, for those without a lineup card, and it speaks to the lasting emotion of this Maryland season: renewed hope.

Winning Is Serious Fun

terps-7451072786 (1)

No one likes to lose and everyone wants to win. While it’s that simple, it’s not that easy. And as they say, “it’s easier said than done.”  Winning is fun; its serious fun. And fun, Biblically speaking, is “joy.” Joy is a positive attitude or pleasant emotion; it means delight.  The joy which the people of God should have is holy and pure. This joy rises above circumstances and focuses on the very character of God.

It is a joy to win, and it is a downer to lose. In losing we learn life lessons. But there comes a time when it’s time to turn in the lessons, and receive a final grade.

No one likes to lose because losing means to slip and to slide, to fail and to flounder, to miss the mission and jettison the job. When you lose you obliterate the operation, but when you win you inaugurate the celebration. Winning cures everything. Winning cures what ails us. But in order to win we must consistently do and persistently say and voice the vision of victory.  Like my Maryland Terps did last night.

My Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball Team upset No. 5 Wisconsin last night, 59 -53 . It was a fantastic finish to a wonderful win. Dez Wells, Maryland’s senior star, consistently and persistently poked and prodded his teammates to victory.  He mandated that they could win; he pleaded that they should win; and in the end, he ensured that they would win. And win they did. And they had fun doing it, and the fans had fun celebrating it, as they rushed the court to celebrate after the final buzzer sounded.

Everyone wants to win. And Dez Wells does too. He scored 26 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists; not too shabby. Wells was the spark and the sparkle of the team. AND, I’m convinced that my Terps can play like that all of the time. Instead of being hot and cold and off and on, sometimes up and sometimes down, these Terps could be the best of the best most of the time.  The sky is the limit.

Winning like the Terps did last night makes one ponder and pose and consider and conceive – and even expect — how life would be if we played well all of the time. Just suppose; just imagine; just think of how good we could be if we hit on all cylinders at least MOST of the time? But alas, this season my Terps didn’t; and unfortunately they haven’t – played their best every game — but they could’ve.  And the same goes for all of the rest of us too.

Everyone wants to win and no one likes to lose. Because winning is serious. It’s means something and it matters everything. Why? Because winning is communicable and contagious; winning is transferable and transmittable; but so is losing. And the line and the limit between losing and winning are so thin you can barely see it with a magnifying glass.

Since everyone wants to win, and everyone is serious about winning, we strive for precision and perfection; we strive for faultless and flawless; we strive for the fantastic and the fanciful. We strive for Oscar-winning performances on and off the court. And with help from the Heavens, we hope to have happy, healthy, joyful and jovial endings to all, or at least most, of our games. It’s that serious.

And here’s an excerpt from Washington Post Sports Columnist Jason Ried’s article on the win:

“Recent signs indicate the Terrapins possess what it takes to have some fun in the NCAA tournament, and the biggest one occurred Tuesday night during a stirring 59-53 victory over formidable Wisconsin.”

“Dez Wells wouldn’t let us lose,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “Melo was Melo.”

“Picked 10th in the conference preseason poll, Maryland steadily has gained supporters. It’s easy to like an up-and-comer that seemed to come from nowhere. Guess who was ahead of the pack.”

“The victory was the Terrapins’ best of the season by far . . . “

And that’s serious, and that’s fun.

The Thrill Of Victory 2.0

Dez Wells

There’s nothing like the thrill of victory. Nothing. To win the way the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC Championship game is beyond words. And now, here we go again. My University Of Maryland Terrapins came back from being down 11 at halftime and 14 in the second period to stun Northwestern 68 – 67.

Maryland, at 18-3, is having a magical season. They began the 2014-2015 campaign unranked, but are now No. 16 in the Country after being ranked as high as No. 13. in the AP Top 25 Poll. And the Terps were on the verge of losing their second straight as they were stinking up the house, AT HOME, playing mediocre ball, until they mounted a furious comeback. And with 1.4 seconds left on the clock, senior Dez Wells rebounded an errant Melo Trimble three-point attempt and sunk the shot of his life. Wells’ “put-back” basket proved to be the game winner.

Northwestern lead practically the whole way, save a 3-1 lead by Maryland, which turned out to be an ephemeral feeling that faded faster than the memory of a bad first date.

But back to winning. When you win, all of the bad, base, and boorish details are at best belittled and at worst wetted down like dirty water gone down the drain. And if there’s a bad part of winning, that’s it. We still need to learn from our mistakes, and winning sometimes doesn’t allow us to do that.

Nonetheless, there’s still no feeling like winning. None. There’s no sense, no sensation, no taste, no smell, and no sound so exhilarating or exciting as overcoming and overpowering and overriding an enemy or an opponent. None.

So, in order to experience the thrill of victory consistently, we must do the things that are necessary to win. We must do all of the little things, the mundane things, the day-in-and day out things that we don’t feel like doing but must needs do in order to experience the thrill of victory on a daily basis. It sounds easy, but it’s not. But it’s worth it. Just ask Dez Wells.