*For die hard basketball fans like me, this is the time of year when our productivity levels typically decline because the majority of our waking hours are spent consuming March Madness basketball and the beginning of the NBA Playoffs.
Being a native of Louisville, Kentucky, it is no surprise that I spent Easter Sunday afternoon with my eyes glued to the television, watching the number one seeded Louisville Cardinals battle it out with the number two seed, Duke Blue Devils. They were competing for a spot in the illustrious NCAA Final Four tournament.
Unfortunately, with roughly six and a half minutes left in the game’s first half, guard Kevin Ware went up to contest a 3-point shot but came down wrong on his right leg and broke his tibia. The force of the impact was so great till the broken bone literally punctured and protruded through his skin. For nearly ten intense minutes, basketball fans, players, coaches and television viewers were completely transfixed and aghast by the severity of the injury.
As several teammates stood by and tearfully watched Ware lay courtside, patiently waiting for personnel to hoist him onto a gurney, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said that even through his pain and likely shock, Ware urged his teammates to just “win the game” … and they did.
I have to admit, I initially thought it would be difficult for the Cardinals to gather their emotions and win the contest, but they successfully refocused and went on to secure an 85-63 bittersweet victory over the Blue Devils.
Sports commentators and analysts all agree that Ware’s injury was perhaps one of the most atrocious ever witnessed during a game in real time and I’m sure viewers still cringing from having seen the incident would agree. But, for those of us who play, have played or frequently watch contact sports, we know that the risk of injury is high, especially in basketball. It’s a sport where athletes often sacrifice their bodies, taking hard blows from opponents, diving for loose balls or chasing one down that’s headed out of bounds, and enduring hard falls plunging into cameramen or fans sitting courtside. It’s par for the course.
That being said, the high stakes of competing, including risking devastating injuries such as Ware’s is perhaps part of our deep fascination and obsession with sports. Witnessing such daring passion – along with talent – on display turns us from mere spectators, to emotionally invested fans awed by the players’ resilience, love for the game and their drive to compete and win at all costs. It’s infectious and speaks to the character of those who play the game.
In the past, there was controversy on whether or not athletes should be regarded as role models, but watching Ware urge his team to victory while in the midst of the agony of his injury favors the former. Despite being far from perfect, athletes are deserved of a degree of respect merely for being disciplined and enduring the training, practice regimen, teamwork and at times harsh criticism in order to not only achieve their personal and team goals, but to entertain us, the fans – even through horrific setbacks.
Athletes’ ability to persevere and stay focused amid pressure and adversity, finding the will to remain committed to winning as did the Louisville Cardinals on that fateful Easter Sunday, is a life lesson for all of us
Dana Stringer is a freelance writer, playwright, poet and activist based in Southern California. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @danalstringer.