One of the things I have tried to do in this space each week is to connect sports and everyday life.
The purpose of that is to make it something that people who don’t necessarily like sports or follow sports closely can still like to read and get something out of it.
I tell you that because today I am going to talk about something that everyone should find important and consider, and I am going to use a local sports example to show you what it looks like.
If only everything went exactly as we planned in this life, well, we wouldn’t learn everything we need to learn in our lifetimes.
Things go wrong. Sometimes it’s our own fault. Sometimes it’s totally not.
In sports, just like in life, stuff happens. If it didn’t, sports would be boring and maybe not even possible. The beauty of sports is that they’re played by human beings, not computers—at least not yet, anyway.
But a famous pastor named Chuck Swindoll said once "Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it."
Adversity is a part of life from the time we emerge from our mother’s womb until we are lowered to our final resting place. No one is immune from it.
And that’s the best news of all.
“Why”, you ask, “is that?”
Let give you an example to help explain it.
The NorthWood football team was on a mission this season. A lot of what fueled that mission was what happened at the end of last season when they were undefeated and seemingly destined for a trip to Indy.
Those plans got derailed. Some key players became “unavailable” because of an off-field incident, and they lost to Northridge in the sectional championship game.
Their quest was to get back to that place where things went so terribly wrong, make them right, and then go on from there.
But that also went sideways for the Panthers in Week 4 when Northridge scored the final 15 points of the game to knock them out of the ranks of the NLC’s unbeaten. The following week, Warsaw ran for 416 yards—almost entirely between the guards—and sent them back to Nappanee with a 45-21 loss and without a hope of a repeated conference championship.
After finding their footing again with an easy win over Plymouth, the played Mishawaka. Mishawaka runs the same offense Warsaw ran through them with like a hot knife through butter…and had proven that they were better at in than the Tigers.
How in the world was NorthWood going to keep from getting embarrassed right off of its home field? How were they going to slow down the Cavemen enough to let their own offense keep up?
They took a good hard look inside, asked themselves the hard questions, made some adjustments, rededicated themselves to the overall goal and they went out and got that job done.
NorthWood 43, Mishawaka 42 in overtime.
It changed the landscape of the Northern Lakes Conference. Warsaw and Northridge had renewed hope, and the Tigers’ win over the Raiders on the final Friday of the regular season gave them a share of the of the NLC title.
It did a lot more for the Panthers.
They have not tasted defeat since Warsaw beat them back in mid-September.
Only Northridge in the sectional championship game and Leo in the semi-state have played within two touchdowns of them since they beat Mishawaka.
How does that apply in the real world?
Sometimes the doctor walks into the room with his head down and gives you bad news.
Sometimes the boss calls you into the office because he needs you to work more overtime. Sometimes they call you in to tell you there’s no more work for you there instead.
Sometimes your spouse has really hard things to say.
How do you make it? Where do you go? What do you do?
You do what the NorthWood Panthers did in September: “We’re planting our flags here on this hill, and we will be resilient!”
“How did it work out for them this season,” you ask? Can’t say…they’re still playing! Saturday they will play for the 4A State Championship.
One more game to play. One more chapter to write in their redemption story.
But, no matter what, their mission will be fulfilled at Lucas Oil Stadium.
A life lesson learned for them, and shared with us all.