If you want to win

As a former college basketball player, I am captivated for three weeks each Spring when March Madness rolls around, and this year has been no different. I entered my brackets into a couple groups and watched intently the first two weekends as my picks fell one-by-one. By the time the Final Four rolled around, I was towards the bottom in every group I was in, and I only had one team left standing (Louisville). I have a feeling there are many others who found themselves in the same position.

As most people would agree, Wichita State has been the Cinderella of this ball, and they have won games with solid defense and clutch shooting, but no one gave them a chance against Louisville. I was hopeful they would stay with the Cardinals for at least the first half to make it a good game, but I didn’t really expect much. I figured a 15-point Louisville win sounded about right.

What happened shocked the entire nation, including Louisville and its Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino. Wichita State jumped out to an 8-0 lead and held an 11-point advantage going into the half. They had played well enough to cause Louisville to abandon it’s trademarked 2-3 pressure zone, something no other team had been able to do all year, and the Shockers seemed poised to finish off the top-seeded Cardinals. And that’s when it happened.

A couple of back-to-back threes from the corner by a walk-on nobody had ever heard of, and Louisville was within six points with five minutes to play. Everybody in the building not wearing red wanted Wichita State to pull off the upset, and everybody in red wanted Louisville to pull it out in honor of their injured star, Kevin Ware, who had suffered a gruesome broken leg in the Midwest Regional Final against Duke. It was an electric atmosphere we’ve come to expect from the Final Four.

As the game drew closer, the tension increased to see who was going to make the big plays at the end of the game to win it. However, basketball has officials who are given a very tough assignment of monitoring the game, and their inconsistency to call fouls in the last 10 minutes they had called in the previous 30 minutes allowed Louisville to scratch and claw their way back into the game. The final straw came on a defensive rebound by Wichita State that unexpectedly resulted in a jump ball, giving the ball back to Louisville with only six seconds remaining. In that situation, the officials had to make a call, and it cost Wichita State the chance to continue their fabulous run.

I was initially very upset, and I felt bad for Wichita State, believing they had been done a disservice by the officials in the last 10 minutes of the game. But then I remembered something my coaches in high school and college used to tell us all the time. “If you want to win, you have to play good enough to beat the other team and the refs. If you lose, you didn’t play good enough.”

In life, sometimes we look for excuses to explain why we’ve lost, often blaming life’s outcomes on unforeseen circumstances or being wronged by another person. The hard truth is we just didn’t play good enough to overcome these obstacles. If you want to win in any area of life (physically, financially, occupationally), you have to be strong enough to overcome any obstacles or temptations that come your way. If you don’t, you will probably lose, and you will have no one to blame but yourself.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but drink it down with a little water, look in the mirror, and figure out what you need to do to grow from your mistakes and start winning.

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