For the second time in two years, I find myself reminded about how cruel sports can be. In the fall of 2017, I watched our men’s soccer team get annihilated by the powerhouse Trinity University Tigers in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championship game 4-0. This past Sunday, I watched our men’s basketball team fall short in a thrilling but disappointing, double-overtime loss to the Texas Lutheran University (TLU) Bulldogs in the SCAC Championship 99-95.
The thing that makes sports wonderful and magical is also what makes it cruel and soul-crushing — I am talking about belief.
In 2017, the men’s soccer team played an amazing season that featured 10 conference wins, their best record since joining the SCAC, and their first appearance in the SCAC Championship game. More importantly, UD had beaten Trinity earlier in the season proving that the great giant was vulnerable, and toppling the giant could be done again. Their season inspired belief that perhaps the impossible could be done, only to be squashed by the giant.
This year, the men’s basketball team, after an overall poor season, barely squeaked into the conference tournament after losing the final five games of the regular season. Then, they grinded their way past Schreiner in the quarterfinal, a game that featured 14 ties and 20 lead changes. After that,they handled top-seeded Southwestern in lights out shooting performance. All that remained were the hosts, TLU, who had destroyed Dallas both times in the regular season, and seemed as they would do so again as they build two substantial leads in the first half. However, UD evened both deficits, first 12 points and then nine, and went to lead at halftime. It was at this point that belief started creeping in. UD took a huge 17-point lead in the second half, and it seemed as if Cinderella would finally have her happy ending. But her slipper cracked and broke under her as TLU eventually won in double overtime.
In both of these instances, I began to believe that maybe our time had finally come. That finally UD would win a conference championship. But in neither case was this so, and faithful Crusaders would have to wait another year or for another sport to break the glass ceiling.
Belief is indispensable in sports; if you don’t believe you can win then you probably won’t. It practically becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It always becomes extremely dangerous for a highly favored team when the underdog starts believing they can win. Many times this is what occurs, much like Team USA in the Miracle on Ice. One play, one piece of magic is sometimes all it takes for a team to start believing.
However, that same belief is what makes it so gloomy and dismal after the team fails. It’s like discovering the Garden of Eden, only to be told you’re not allowed in. You can physically see it, taste it, touch it, but not possess it.
This is not to say that we should abandon belief; rather, belief is what makes sports one of the most sensational experiences in life.
I will continue to believe that someday our school will finally claim the crown that is rightfully ours. I haven’t the slightest clue about which crown it will be, but eventually, the opportunity will come and the right team will come along and will give us all a reason to believe.