Afterward, you buried your face in the bend of my elbow as I hugged you. I knew you were crying. I knew that my chance to console you would last only a few seconds, as your teammates would be passing. You wanted to collapse, but you would not. You would not want to look weak.
The truth is, you were weak today. You spent yesterday nauseous and feverish and achy. Today, you felt ready, but I wondered how you would hold up. You played your heart out, but this was not your game. Your defense was good today, but your shots were uncharacteristically off, and by the look on your face it was plainly evident that you were frustrated. How my heart ached for you. How I begged for those shots to fall…
The ride home was silent. I think everyone felt it…the hard loss in the last minute of a playoff game. A season over. A boy that is sick. A boy that is heartbroken. A boy that is mad at himself.
You ran straight up to your room and when you came down, there were tears streaking your face. I told you that everyone has a game like this…where your shots don’t fall…when your best is just not quite enough. Your daddy says you will grow from this…you will be better because of this.
I know that right now you just feel crappy.
Me too, buddy. Me too.
But you know what else I feel? I feel proud of you.
You never gave up.
I wonder if you’ve ever heard that saying…it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game…
Maybe this time, that really is what matters…how you played the game.