John F. Russell: Finding joy from playing the game
Steamboat Springs — Some where between childhood and becoming an adult, I decided that sports were all about winning.
It didn’t matter if I was watching the Denver Broncos on television or playing in an adult coed softball league in Steamboat Springs, for some reason, it all became about winning the game. The difference between success and failure always seemed to be tied to the final score — and even more disturbing was that my level of enjoyment seemed to be determined by that same score.
It hasn’t always been that way.
I can still remember playing pickup baseball games in the park behind my parents’ home, where the score was more of an estimate than a fact written in stone. The real draw wasn’t the chance to win, but the chance to play the game. It was the sound of a baseball hitting the bat, the feeling of a ball falling into the soft leather of a baseball mitt and the friendships that I discovered while running around the bases, which included a tree, an unused baseball glove and anything else we could find for third base and home. I’ll never forget afternoons hanging out with friends sharing the love of a game.
These days I have a hard time watching a professional football game on television without the score tainting my mood. Instead of enjoying a running back making the highlight reel, or a future Hall of Fame quarterback dazzling the fans with a pass to his favorite receiver, I tend to be consumed by the final score. If my team wins, I’m happy, but if they lose, it’s pretty much a guarantee that I will be in a bad mood for at least a few hours.
It’s too bad because I love watching athletes play games, and the truth is that the game needs to be measured by their efforts — win or lose. The problem is, as I’ve grown older, I’ve lost sight of just how much fun simply playing a game can be.
But the other day as I watched my daughter play an indoor soccer game, I was thrilled to see that same love of playing the game on my daughter’s face, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
As a parent, I hope she never loses that feeling. I hope she never has to question why she wants to play the game, and I hope that it isn’t all about winning. For me, it’s more important to respect the game you love and to play it for the right reasons. I’m glad that she reminds me every time she steps on the field that it’s just a game, and in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter if you win, or lose. I’m glad she’s around to remind me of that since the Rockies season is just around the corner.
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