Wednesday, September 5, 2012

4th Quarter

Last year about this time I wrote this:

"With the coming of October, ladies, we are officially in the 4th quarter of our journey. For those of you who don't watch American football and might not be familiar with the concept of the 4th quarter, this is the point at which we truly show our mettle. It's easy to be excited and start a new game all fired up. In the beginning, we haven't yet been truly challenged. In the beginning, we don't yet know our opponents. Sure, we've studied the film and prepared as well as possible, but until our cleats hit the dirt and the sweat starts to roll, we can't truly know of what we or our opponents are made. In the 2nd and 3rd quarters, our heads are down, and we are doing the work, learning our weaknesses and our strengths, and we are trudging ahead--the end of the game a distant glimmer.

The 4th quarter though, the
4th quarter is the most critical point in the game. This is the point at which we learn of what we're made and at which we show it. A game can be won or lost in this most critical of quarters. This is the point at which an underdog comes from behind to upset an overconfident foe. This is the point at which a true champion doesn't let up but protects their lead against the last minute rally. This is the point at which we are tired, beaten up, dirty, sweaty, and ready to go home, but 15 minutes of play lie ahead of us and we still have to defend our end zone. When it's all said and done, and the lights have gone out, we want to walk out of this locker room holding our heads high and knowing we have done our best until the very last play.

So my challenge to myself and to each and every one of you is to keep this idea of being in the 4th quarter as a constant in your mind. Keep running, keep driving, keep fighting for ever last yard. Know every play counts.

Lately, I've come up with some further thoughts along this same line:

One might argue that life is not a game, that the analogy of a fourth quarter implies an end to a process. The first time I used that analogy, quite a few people became offended that I would imply that life is a game or that the Lean Eating process would have an end. I maintained then, and still do now, that the analogy holds. Actually, I have been thinking of it quite a bit lately.

A team and its players do not face a single game. Instead they face seasons. The play from each game builds on the lessons from the previous game. We learn our weaknesses and our strengths and adjust our game play accordingly. We take hard, painful hits and go on injured reserve. Some days our step is more sure, and we are more fleet of foot. Others we’re doing well not to trip over ourselves. We lose teammates and gain others. And when it’s all said and done, there’s always another game then another season--at least until we take ourselves out of play or until there isn’t, in which case it no longer matters.

This game’s third quarter has been a hard one for me, and I’ve sort of been limping along. When we’re not our strongest, though, staying in the game means finding other ways to maximize our play. The more I think about this analogy, the more I like it. As I’ve looked at it further, I’ve come to realize that more often than not when I look behind the facemasks on the opposing side, I am my own most fearsome opponent; that the conditions on the field are what life has to throw at me at any given time, and what play I run next is my own choice.

As I approach this last quarter of this particular game, I am standing in the dark in the soaking rain. I am bruised and tired and feeling more than a little outmanned. The rest of the team is huddled around the coach, and I can hear her stoking the fires and laying out the plan. My eyes, though, my eyes hold loose focus--the scoreboard to the left, the soggy field laid out before me, and the end zone to my right. As the next series of plays is presented and I look out at a slippery field and a point deficit, I realize that it’s times like these when I have to focus on the fundamentals. Hold my stance. Keep my head up. Keep my eyes on the target. Pursue. And DRIVE. It’s time to fall back on the fundamentals and hone them to a sharp edge. Now, more than ever, it’s time to stay in the game--even if I’m a little tired, bruised or outmanned. I have another whole quarter, and the rain shows signs of letting up.
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1 comment:

  1. With my love for the game of football, I can totally see this analogy! Especially now with my training for a marathon-I'm entering the 4th quarter of that season with high hopes and fingers crossed that it ends with victory!