As my son’s varsity baseball team enters this week of tournament games, all of us are aware that a loss in the first game means our season is suddenly over. A win Tuesday, however, means a game Thursday as well as a seat in the district tournament, extending our season by at least a week if not more. For teens who have been practicing or playing baseball five, sometimes six, days a week for more than three months (and for parents who have been driving to all games with a van full of teens, some hours away, up to three games per week), a loss isn’t all bad.
To win or not to win? That truly seems to be the question when the glory of a win is compared with the apparent luxurious rest inherent in a loss.
“I’ve often wondered how professional ball players feel about a loss that ends their season earlier,” I said to my 16-year-old, when we were discussing the baseball schedule for this upcoming week. “In some ways it means an early and extended vacation.”
“Yes,” he agreed, pointing out that the teams that go on to win often play an additional month or more.
Knowing that for some ball players, perhaps those in football, more games inflict more injury on their bodies, I thought that maybe, just maybe, a loss is welcome. Knowing my son is involved with the school play that will require more after-school practices, conflicting with a longer baseball schedule, and knowing that all the tournament games will be at least an hour and a half away, on school nights, turns my mind to thinking a loss is welcome.
“Just consider it a win-win situation,” I told my son. “If you win, great. If you don’t win, great.”
But those words haunted me while I pounded my bench during step aerobics this morning. The team has a great chance at winning this game Tuesday night. What if the boys purposely didn’t do their best because they thought a win would be too much work or too inconvenient?
And then I began to consider that the result of winning in other areas of our lives usually is more work. For instance:
- Infants struggle to sit up, then crawl, then walk, then run–a win for the infant, but work for him (and his parents!).
- Growing up (winning!) leads to more responsibilities and independence, leading to more responsibilities and independence. Work.
- Winning a class spelling bee leads to competing in the school-wide spelling bee, then the county bee, then state bee, then national bee. Winning. And work.
- Earning a part in the school play means learning lines, practicing, suffering the nerves of the performances. That’s work.
- Making the varsity baseball team means practicing and performing. Definitely work.
- Doing well in classes may lead to higher-level honors or Advanced Placement classes. Winning = work.
- Doing well in high school earns acceptance to college. Winning = work.
- Doing well in college often means getting a good job–winning is presumably work, even if you love it.
- Finding a person you love may lead to a friendship, or relationship, or marriage. Winning = work.
- Marriage may lead to children. Winning = more work.
You get the picture. Actually, choosing to live is work–for someone, hopefully the one living. Choosing a quality life is more work. Choosing a quality life that benefits those around us is even more work.
Consider the alternative. An infant who doesn’t progress or thrive. A child who doesn’t grow up to become responsible or independent. Students who don’t do well, don’t graduate, don’t get good jobs. Adults who don’t love, don’t invest in relationships. Not winning does equal less work–but so much less than a full life, too.
In physical fitness, we say “No pain, no gain.” It also applies to life. For life is painful, and to get the most out of it usually requires some exertion as well as pain and heartache.
William Shakespeare got it. In his famous “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy in Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, his character Hamlet reflected on the ease of death and his own weakness in achieving it vs. the difficulties inherent in living beginning “To be or not to be…”
Hamlet chose “to be,” and, quite frankly, as we contemplate “To win or not to win,” I realize that while winning isn’t everything, trying to win is. For all of us, our choice must be to aim “to win,” even when it means work or inconvenience.
The Bible says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” It’s important for each and every player to give his all in Tuesday’s game because that is the only way to play and live–with the aim of winning, with the willingness to work (or, in my case, the willingness to drive…)
To win or not to win? Definitely, play to win, work to win. No matter the outcome.