2020: A Game of Runs

8itorials, Opinion

Our favorite team, whoever that might be, is up by 4 coming out of the under 16 media timeout and feeling good about the way the game is going. But then there’s a turnover and the other team hits a three. They press and force another turnover that leads to a layup. We break the press this time, but we’re forced into a scramble on the offensive end and we force a shot. Long rebound, fast break, dunk and a foul.

That three point lead has turned into being down 4 with 13 minutes left, but everybody knows the game is over. The body language is bad. The other team’s bench is jumping up and down and talking trash. Players are looking at the coach for help, and the coach is looking back at them like “hey you guys have to figure this out.” Every single fan watching the game is begging for a timeout. It’s obviously needed. It’s what teams do in this situation.

But why? Does the other team go back to their huddle saying “man that was fun, but guess that run is over”? Is there some kind of magical re-set button that’s hit, sending both teams back to the way they were playing before the run? Does it make our guy who can’t keep his man in front of him move his feet faster? Does it make the 6’8” center 3 inches taller? Why does that timeout work? Why is that timeout so obviously needed that literally millions of fans collectively understand that the coach should call a timeout?

It’s not the timeout that does it. It’s the first 9 words the coach says in the huddle.

“Calm the f*ck down. What you’re doing isn’t working.”

Yeah it’s an obvious, coach-y thing to say. But let’s break down the psychology of it. It translates to a message of “The situation isn’t hurting you, it’s your reaction to the situation. And your actions can fix it. Control what you can control.”

Works every time. Undefeated.

So here we are. It’s the end of 2020. This is our timeout.

I won’t sugar coat it … we’ve been getting our asses kicked. The other team hasn’t missed a shot in like 8 minutes. These refs suck. The lighting is bad. It feels like the A/C isn’t working. The water in our bottles tastes like plastic. The towels smell like mold. There isn’t one aspect of the game that’s in our favor right now.

There are going to be soooooo many jokes today about firing 2020 into the sun. We made it. We’re finally hitting 2021. All of our problems are over.

But timeouts don’t work because of magic. If we go back on the court with the same attitude, playing the same way, with the same sorry-ass players expecting things to just all of a sudden be easier for us, 2021 is going to be even worse. Believe that.

So … calm the f*ck down.

Recognize the role that our attitudes, our choices, our behaviors have played in putting us where we are. Is covid “just the flu”? Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. But I do know if we had “just the flu” and no way of stopping it, treating it, or muffling the effects of it, “just the flu” would put us right where are with covid.

We aren’t shut down because of a bad cold being spread around. We’re shut down because it’s been 9 months and we’re still standing there arguing about switching or hedging on the ball screen while the other team pick and rolls us to death on every possession. They aren’t doing anything we can’t defend. We are choosing not to work together to defend it. Saying “it’s not as bad as everyone’s saying it is” might be a good way to shake off a bad play but when we’re getting our asses handed to us like this? Change the attitude.

Our reaction to the problem is what’s letting the problem beat us. We fix the way we handle it and the problem becomes beatable. Stop arguing. Communicate. Trust each other and show empathy instead of blaming everyone else out there. Calm. The f*ck. Down.

What you’re doing isn’t working.

Do we have a good game plan? Nobody has a clue because no one’s running the game plan. “I know we aren’t supposed to have large gatherings but everybody in my neighborhood has been taking this seriously so we’re all getting together tonight. My friend already had it, and it’s not that bad. We’re getting a big tent for the backyard so it’s outside so it’s fine. I’ve been safe for the most part but it’s New Years, I’m not letting this ruin me living my life.”

Run the damn play. If there’s a plan that’s drawn up, run it. Most of us would CRUSH a point guard who’s supposed to find an open shooter coming off of a screen but instead says “I’m gonna get mine” and throws up a contested shot at the rim against two 7 footers.

No matter how “fine” you think what you’re doing is outside of the guidelines that have been given to us, look at the scoreboard. It’s not working.

What we’ve done … our actions … those have put us in this position where we’re in this timeout trying to figure out how to not get run out of the gym. Stick to the plan. If it’s a bad plan, we’ll change it, but we have to let it have a chance to work. Play your position. Carry out your role. What you’re doing isn’t working. So let’s try something that might work.

Everybody calm now? Everybody ready to try something different?

Okay, coming out of this break here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to pay attention to local guidelines and we’re going to follow them. We’re going to really work to limit opportunities to spread this thing by making smart decisions even if it’s not what we want to do as individuals. We’re going to trust each other. We’re going to communicate, which means we’re going to listen and understand. Help each other on everything. Play for your teammates.

Look, it will not be easy. But if you keep your cool, follow the plan, and if you set aside any selfishness you have and fully invest in our team and your teammates, we’re going to win this game.

Do you want to win? Hell yeah you do. Now f*cking go do it. Team on three.