A Wonderful Way To Win and A Woeful Way To Lose

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts on the sidlines during the second quarter of the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MI – OCTOBER 17: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts on the sidlines at the end of the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23 after recovering a fumbled punt snap. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wow. What a game. What a way to win and what a way to lose. Michigan had the game won. And Michigan State had the game in the loss column. For Michigan State, it was a wonderful way to win an away game at your arch-rivals expense. And for Michigan — well, let’s just say that this is yet another opportunity to overcome adversity.

But talk about a heartbreaker. Talk about a tearjerker. Talk about a crazy way to lose and a crazier way to win. Just 10 seconds away from the biggest bang of his young college career, Jim Harbaugh saw his team fumble away a wonderful win. The “Harbaugh Effect” was in full force for 59 minutes and 50 seconds. But those last 10 seconds of the game saw something only legends are made of. The Harbaugh force fizzled and the sensational sizzle somehow turned to drizzle and someway dissolved the wonderful win away.

The victory party at the Big House had to be canceled at the last minute. Or, worse yet, the last second. Michigan had the game. They HAD it. The Michigan punter will need a few friends and fewer sharp objects after fumbling the last snap and in effect fumbling away the game. Michigan had the game won and it just slipped through their hands. Just like that. Because Yogi said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

And so what can we learn? We can learn this: don’t let a game slip through your hands. Don’t play not to lose. Play to win. Fear and worry and panic and dread have no place in the winner’s circle. Ten seconds till the win? No way Michigan loses that game. No way. Yet they lost, and now they will have to figure out a way to come back and fight back and take back what was stolen from them.

Because this was not just a loss, it was yet another lesson on why we all hate to lose.

Michigan State Has Hope!

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Hope. It’s a great four letter word. With it we win; without it we lose. With hope we can succeed; without hope we will fail. With hope, we’re destined; without hope we’re doomed. With hope we just might make it; without hope, we don’t stand a chance. Just ask Job of the Bible. At one point, he wondered where his hope was.

Hope is a powerful thing. Its power and its potency and its potential are positively peculiar indeed. The power of hope lies in its ability to keep a drowning man afloat. The potency of hope lies in its capacity to keep a dying man alive. The potential of hope lies in its capability to keep a despondent man’s mind properly aligned. In essence, hope keeps you alive and alert and watchful and wistful. Hope keeps you on board and on key and in tune with what God has intended for you now and down the road.

Hope in sports keeps players playing and coaches coaching. Hope gets you through a long, grueling practice and through a tough, tight game. When you’re weary and when you’re worn, the hope of a win gets you through. The hope of an expected end keeps us all moving and marching and going forward and gaining ground onward. Hope springs eternal, and that is why we always must have hope.

Hope is the earnest expectation of things to come. Hope is the engagement ring. Hope is the down payment on the unbuilt house. Hope is the leave request for the summer vacation. Without hope, we’re done; kaput; finished; D.O.A. – a.k.a., dead on arrival. But with hope, we have a chance. Albeit, it may be a slim, outside, longshot of a chance, but it’s still a chance.

Michigan State is in the Final Four, along with Wisconsin, Duke, and the presumptive champion, Kentucky. And nobody, and I mean nobody, had Michigan State in the Final Four, at least not this year’s Final Four. A month ago they weren’t that good or this good. But that’s what hope does. It gives us a spark and a spur and a surge and a splurge of adrenaline that we otherwise wouldn’t have.

Only a faithful few Tom Izzo fans had Michigan State going this far in the Tournament. And fewer who picked them would admit that they had any faith, or dare I say any hope, that they would be on the verge of something big. But don’t you think for one minute that the Spartans don’t think and hope and expect to win.

Michigan State has hope. After all, they have Tom Izzo, and Tom Izzo is a great coach. And they have Travis Trice, who is a believer, and in his post game interview, he gave credit to God for the victory. I love it. And it’s still March, and in March there is methodical madness. And the Madness of March, strange as it may seem, gives hope to each and every gamer and dreamer out there. That includes Michigan State, and me and you too.

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So don’t lose hope. Don’t lose your hope. Make sure you keep her close by. And if you lose your hope, have someone look for her for you, because if you can’t see her, someone else who cares about you can.

 

Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?

Job 17:15, NIV

A Good Loss Is Better Than A Bad Win

SmotryzYou may not agree, but first, hear me out.  A good loss is better than a bad win. For starters, winning is born in your brain and hatched in your head.  You can’t teach mental toughness; it’s something that you have to learn on your own. And sometimes, you learn by losing.

You have to get tired of losing when you shouldn’t before you can weather the storm and win when with a weak mind you otherwise wouldn’t.    You have to know you’re going to win before the game gets going or you’re doomed from the jump.  And you have to hold your head up, dust yourself off and somehow still make headway even when you lose a big lead.

Second, the true test of a champion is how you react to adversity. It’s easy to be excited and elated when your shots are falling and the crowd is cheering and everything is going your way. But what do you do when the chips are down and the jig is up and your shots don’t fall and nothing is going your way?

A good loss is better than a bad win because you learn more from a loss than you do from a win. That being said, you play to win the game. Right? So if you lose, the loss should be a motivator and an instigator; a loss should be motivation and inspiration to fuel the fire for the following fight.

A good loss is a loss littered with lessons and logic for life. A good loss is chock full of coaching and counsel and advice and admonition. A good loss is full of teaching moments; it’s full of testing and training, and instruction and induction for living better and winning bigger.  You can learn a load from a good loss.

A bad win is a win won without merit or without warrant. It’s a win that belongs to someone else.  It’s like kissing your sister or stealing from your mother; you just know it’s not right. You won but you know you shouldn’t have; you won but you know it was fool’s gold. A bad win is not sustainable. Meaning, you couldn’t duplicate it if you tried one hundred times.

My Maryland Terrapins Men’s Basketball Team just notched a good loss. They started fast and finished slow, and hopefully learned that the game is not won in the first five minutes.  It’s takes a team playing as a unit and working together as a trained troop to pull out and pull off a win. And against Michigan State in the semi-finals of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament, that just didn’t happen.

So while I’m mad we lost, I’m glad we didn’t win. Not playing like that.  With the game on the line, the stars played poorly and the supporting cast didn’t pick up the slack. Worst still, they let Michigan State get in their head. And that made me mad more than the loss itself.

Hopefully, the Terps learn from this what it takes to win on the road in a hostile environment.   Winning is as much if not more mental than it is physical, and the sooner we all learn that lesson the better.