Monday, May 2, 2011

Ring of Fire

I love Johnny Cash's music....who could forget "Ring of Fire?" The words go something like this...."I go down, down, down and the flames got higher...and it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire...the ring of fire..." The song is written about unrequited love, however, I have now been able to apply it to life, sports, and competition. (This is a stretch, but I think that I can do it).

As I reflected on Buddy's team's performance this weekend (they lost the series...all 3 games to the division leader), the words of the song, ring of fire have a distinct meaning. The ring of fire was the baseball mound. During the weekend, any pitcher who was there was burned and not just my son. When a team plays the number one team in the league, any mistake can mean the difference between a win and a loss. And so it went this weekend. A walk, an error, a hit batter, misplayed ball can lead to a loss(es).
In their case, a series of errors led to late game losses. Sadly, yesterday's game was a bit of a blow out and they were burned by the results.

According to Buddy, the ride home was filled with tension. No one was happy. The coaches were angry about yesterday's game and the lack of focus as opposed to the first two losses. Sadly, the trip was about 8 hours in length, so sitting in the tension filled environment unable to escape even for a walk must have been stressful. On top of this, he has two exams today. Perhaps the quiet on the bus lead to his ability to concentrate and study his notes.

Then again, perhaps he was replaying his performance over and over. When I would play a tennis match (I I go again....), I never reviewed the games for what I did right....only what I did wrong. Deep down inside, I know that I should focus on the positives, but when a person competes, it is the negative aspect of the game that will lead to the next loss. Therefore, an athlete or competitor has to do an objective review. By rationalizing and saying that it was the "other person's fault" does not lead to improvement and is denying individual culpability.

So, the ring of fire can also be a metaphor for one's mind after a tough loss. You can escape the guys and other players...but you can't escape your thoughts. Telling the Big Kid to learn from it then forget about it is lame advice. If I knew how to do this, I would do it myself. But he is a brooder. He is going to process what happened, learn from it, get angry, focus, and attack his game. Does that sound crazy? Maybe....maybe not. I look at where he came from...the little obscure Catholic schools in tiny towns that are not nationally known. He played against the larger, more prestigious schools and was able to hold his own against fierce competition. This has been helpful as he considers where he came from and where he can go. He has always been the underdog. Despite his success, he was never considered by most as an elite athlete, just an overachiever. Having to overcome various rings of fire in the attempt to prove himself has lead to personal success. How many pitchers that he played against in elementary school and high school can say that they had their very first college loss broadcasted on national television? I think the answer is none. Therefore, by being burned on a number of occasions, he is now tougher, stronger, and smarter. He looks forward to the next ring of fire...and so it goes....

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