There always are and always will be ups and downs in sports. You’ll find them within a single competition as well as throughout a career. Anyone can handle the good times with class and confidence. That takes no great discipline or character. However, how you handle the down times is what distinguishes you as a real champion from everyone else.
One mark of a real champion is that no matter what is going on, no matter how badly things are going, how far behind you are or how poorly you’re playing, you never, ever give up. A champion always operates on the principle that it’s never over until it’s over, that he/she is never out of it until time actually runs out! Because of this belief, a champion is able to repeatedly stage the impossible comeback and steal victory from the closing jaws of defeat.
We saw this yesterday afternoon when Argentinean, Juan Martin del Potro upset tennis legend Roger Federer in the finals of the US Open. There were times during the match that it looked like Federer was on his way to an unprecedented 6th US Open victory in a row. However, del Potro never quit, never let himself get discouraged and never gave in. As a result, he was able to hang in there long enough to find an opening and turn the tide in his favor, winning in 5 sets.
By refusing to give in to the emotions of defeat (i.e. discouragement, hopelessness, frustration and emotionally giving up), you keep yourself in a mental and physical position to completely turn things around. By doing this, you increase the chances that you may indeed do the impossible!
Last night on Monday Night Football we saw Tom Brady and his New England Patriots do exactly that! They stole a game that they had no right to win from the Buffalo Bills because Brady and the Pats refused to believe that they were finished.
Down by 11 points with 5:32 to go in the game, Brady went into the huddle and told his team, “Get your hats on. We’re gonna score before the 2 minute warning. We’re gonna get the ball back and then we’re gonna score again and win this thing!”
Logically there was no good reason to believe Brady’s comments. The Pats had played most of the game quite poorly, sputtering through five scoreless drives in their first 7 possessions. Brady had already thrown an interception and the team looked way off. But Brady actually believed what he was telling his teammates. He believed that they were still in the game despite how hopeless it may have looked.
Wide receiver Randy Moss commented about his quarterback’s words in the huddle: “He knew! When you got a guy like that speaking like that, leading you like that, there ain’t nothing for the other 10 of us to do but shut up and go out there and make plays.” And that’s exactly what the Pats did. Brady drove his team 81 yards to score with a little more than two minutes remaining. Then they improbably recovered a fumble on the kick-off return and scored again with 50 seconds left in the game to go up by one, stealing the victory, 25 – 24. They scored two touchdowns in 5 minutes as Brady completed 11 of 13 passes.
Sound like a fairy tale ending? It was! But it was only possible because Tom Brady and his teammates refused to believe that they were beaten. They refused to give up and this belief allowed them to create an opportunity to come back and then take advantage of this opportunity.
It’s an over-worked cliche that winners never quit and quitters never win. It’s also quite true that by not quitting, you give yourself a chance, regardless of how slim, to do the impossible. Don’t ever give up! Don’t ever give in! If you keep looking for that chance, however slim it may seem at the time, then more often than not you’ll find it!