I am rereading My Losing Season by Pat Conroy for the third time. It gets better with each reading as Conroy
beautifully unpacks the heart realities going on inside of him and his teammates during his senior year as point guard of The Citadel basketball team. (I still think it is the best sports book I have ever read. My only qualification is that the language is real but not overblown – what it was like in a boys locker room in the 60s – which some might find offensive.)
In the Prologue to the book, Conroy recalls a conversation he had 30 years after that last fateful season with John DeBrossse, the shooting guard on that team, who “spent his whole life as a basketball coach, teacher, and principle in the Dayton area near his home town of Piqua, Ohio.”
“I’ve always told my players and coaches that something used to happen between us every practice, Conroy. Do you remember?”
Something stirred, then struck a huge chord of memory, and I got that slight shiver that happens when I catch a glimpse of a part of my past that has slipped out of sight.
“When the guards would split up from the forwards and centers and we would go to the opposite court to do drills,” John said.
“I remember. I loved that.”
“It always happened when you and I went one-on-one together. You guarding me. Me guarding you. There was nothing like it.”
“You liked it because you were so much better than me.”
“No,” he said. “We went after each other like no two other players on the team. Not a word was spoken. No trash talking. Just pure respect. The whole atmosphere in that gym changed. I brought out the best in you. You brought out the best in me. Man, it was something.”
Do me a favor. Reread that last paragraph. Those few sentences capture what I think God intended when he gave us competition and what he desires for us to restore to our sports experiences.
DeBrosse says it better than our more sterile definition of redeemed competition – “Striving together to more fully express the image of God in each other.”
This is the picture we at CSO work toward restoring to the world of sports. “Man it would be something!!!”