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Spring 1998
Boo Who?
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It takes a lot more energy and a dollop of faith to be positive and believe that your team can reverse the tide and rally to victory. Hey, these are 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids out there. And we all agree, donít we? Itís only a game.

Viewing sports appeals to us because we get all the classic elements of compelling storytelling: conflict, colorful characters, comedy, drama. We root for the underdog, revel in the us vs. them-ness of it all.

And playing sports provides a multitude of useful life lessons: the value of hard work and goal-setting, the virtues of discipline and teamwork, the interdependence of physical and mental skills, the meaning of competition and the importance of self-esteem. But when pushed to an extreme by overzealous fans, competitiveness can lead to a very negative outcome: We begin to take sports too seriously. A little good-natured trash talk is harmless, but if the windup is knee-jerk sports radio callers screaming for coachesí jobs or big donors threatening to pull support of their alma maters, then being an overly competitive fan is just plain nuts.

Because itís only a game. And thereís always another one tomorrow, or next week or next year. Get a grip. Sure you want your team to win, but not so much that you lose your sense of balance.

When I was growing up, like millions of kids across the country, I played sports all day, every day. Thousands upon thousands of games of kickball, football, basketball, baseball, you-name-it-ball. Often a team captain, I used to believe winning was everything. This made me a pretty sore sport when I lost. I yelled at classmates for making errors, dropping passes, missing shots.

In retrospect, my behavior was, well, rather childish. But Iíve mellowed considerably over the years. I now realize that the rush that comes with winning is fleeting and that the misery of defeat is a lower low than the thrill of victory is a high high. True winners, Iíve come to understand, are those who play their hearts out and both win and lose graciously. Over the course of a lifetime of playing games, the outcome of any single contest doesnít define you. Sports, like life, has a way of evening out. Sure, defeat still stings, especially when Iíve blown the game-winning shot. But winning is not as important to me as it used to be. Itís only a game.

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