Sometimes my friends and family roll their eyes at me when we attend an event like a concert or a play (remember those?) because I’m kind of stubborn.
At the conclusion of the production, I will always applaud for the efforts put in by the performers and the crew.
I won’t, however, give a standing ovation unless I think the show was truly exceptional. As an audience member, I believe a standing ovation is the highest recognition I can give and thus I reserve it for the very best performances.
I tell you this so you understand just how meaningful it is for me to send this message to all our local high school and college student-athletes:
I’m honored to be metaphorically standing and applauding for your sacrifices.
I’ve talked to a lot of team representatives over the last couple of months about the challenges they have faced and the lessons they have learned from having their lives disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sure, there has been a lot of pain, frustration and disappointment.
But, as so many of you have pointed out, that’s always part of sports.
The reality is that all athletes have to value sacrifice.
Just because you sacrifice other pursuits to work hard doesn’t mean your team will win a championship — or even win a game at all. It doesn’t mean you will be a star or a starter or ever get off the bench.
So why, athletes, do you do it? Why do you put yourself through all that without certainty about the end result?
Yes, you do it to improve yourself — but the best athletes always understand that personal goals are insignificant compared to team goals.
I’ve come to understand that the last two months of having almost no sports at all fall into the same category and that has made it much easier for me to cope with the challenges of this pandemic.
Athletes, you sacrificed your spring season for the good of a much bigger team goal: the health of our communities.
Some argue it wasn’t necessary to sacrifice so much while others believe we should be sacrificing even more. Both sides have valid perspectives, but to me those points of view are beside the point.
Just as players, coaches and officials will never be perfect, neither will governments and health officials. I believe they are doing the best they can under tremendous pressure when there are no clear answers.
Whether decisions were right or wrong doesn’t diminish in any way the sacrifices that you — and all of us — made.
So be proud of being part of Team Pandemic Fighters.
I hope you will take pride in your efforts, in your pain, in having to show grit and resiliency.
Like in many games you have played, there will be hard times and failures — but in the end we will win because we won’t stop fighting.
I also applaud the way so many of you are approaching this time of crisis.
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the negativity of the moment. We are bombarded by dire predictions about virus surges, economic disaster, and — perhaps worst of all — the end of sports as we know them.
When I hear those, I often think of the exchange in the classic movie, “Apollo 13” between the unnamed NASA director and chief flight director Gene Kranz.
After listing many negative possibilities, the NASA director concluded by saying, “This could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever experienced.”
To which Kranz fired back, “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour.”
I hope all high school and college athletes — and all of us, really — will face the difficulties of the immediate future with determination to make this our finest hour as well.
I applaud all who have sacrificed and still believe in a bright future. I have two simple messages for you:
And keep it up.