Friday, March 5, 2010

The Big Stick Brigade

Happiness is a half-day. Well, while that does not hold water as a universal truth - as there are any number of less than pleasant reasons why one might work 50% of one's usual day (a certain medical exam leaps to the forefront of my mind) today is a happy half-day. And not merely for the fact that for the first time - at least to the best of my recollection - since way back when the calendar said "JANUARY" we have gone one entire week 'NTSG without any more snow falling from the sky - although I would be lying if I said that does not have something to do with it.

336 kids from all across New Jersey will descend on Atlantic City tonight to commence hostilities in the State High School Wrestling Championships. By end of day Sunday at least two-thirds of them - in a town where there are winners and losers - will indeed be caught on the wrong side of that line. At least in the immediate aftermath of a season whose final scene is one that does not include a hand being raised in victory after one final triumph, it is likely that all 322 competitors going home other than those who are crowned "Champion" in each of the fourteen weight classes will feel that way. None of them should. Yet, some of them will.

It is not merely the nature of sport but the nature of life itself that our reaction - when we have tried as hard as we can try and have done as much as we are capable of doing only to fall short of our hoped-for result - is one of disappointment. Candidly, as long as that reaction is transitory and not long-lasting it is entirely appropriate. It is a cliche to be sure - but it has reached that rarefied air because it contains more than a simply a morsel of truth - to say that one can learn as much through defeat as one can learn through victory and that a certain amount of adversity and disappointment builds character (as opposed to characters for if the latter was true I would have trumped Sybil by the end of my 9th grade wrestling campaign).

Tonight, for a third of the young men who place themselves on display for all who are gathered to watch, the season (and in some cases this particular chapter of their life) will end less than ten minutes after they begin their participation in the competition. The first round of this tournament is particularly brutal. It is single elimination: win or go home. A year's worth of work capped by a final week's worth of "What if? and Why couldn't it be me?" thoughts and contemplations will be eviscerated in an eye blink.

Not every kid can win this weekend but - whether any of them can appreciate it as it happens or not - none of them loses either. Far better is it to dare mighty things after all. The world belongs to those who dare to dare and who eschew a life in the gray twilight.

It belongs to none but the brave. And this weekend in Atlantic City it belongs to 336 kids brave enough to dare.


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