It is Saturday evening and it's about 48 hours before my team (Purple) plays in the championship game of our Monday night open basketball league at 7:15 PM. I figured this is a perfect time to reflect on a previous experience in a basketball championship game. This would be my first ever basketball championship game during the summer of 1994.
By my count, Monday night's championship game appearance will be my fourth (Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2010) in the particular league I am playing in. Unfortunately, my teams have not won any of their previous appearances though I am obviously hoping that will change in two days. In another league I play in, I have played in six championship games (Summer 1994, Spring 2001, Summer 2002, Summer 2005, Easter 2008 Tournament, Summer 2008) and have won four of them.
In looking back at my first championship game appearance back in 1994, I almost cringe at what I remembered from the experience. First of all, just making the championship was a surprise. My team that year was a major underdog in our playoff game but we somehow pulled off the upset to get to the championship game.
The time leading up to the championship game was nerve wracking. I was 20 years old and hadn't played much organized basketball except for the two seasons (Summer of 1992 and 1993) and some basketball back in 8th grade.
When the day of the championship game arrived, I was a nervous wreck. If you asked me why, I couldn't give you an exact answer. However, I would say that perhaps it was similar to a job interview or a first date. This was definitely something I wanted to go well.
In short, the game did not go well. The opposing team in the championship game was quite good and gave us a hard time throughout. My team hung in there but ultimately lost 46-44. I had a horrid game as I didn't score a point and went 0-5 on the free throw line. Unlike these days where I play year round, I had to carry the experience of a miserable championship game until the following summer.
Looking back at that 1994 experience today, I see that I put too much stake into the meaning of the championship game. Winning a championship indeed is a point of pride but not the be all and end all of things. Unlike professional athletes, the leagues I've played in don't give our trophies or rings.
So even though I have played on 10 championship teams and won four, the only thing I've "won" from the championships is ONE t-shirt. The rest of the things I've gained is friendships, photos and great memories. Not to discount the other seasons where I didn't get to the championship, I have great memories of those seasons as well.
As the clock ticks down toward my Monday night championship game, I'm going to do what I regularly do the next few days. On the day of the game, our team is going to give it their best shot. Yet at the same time, I am going to fully enjoy the experience. As I get older, I realize that my days of playing competitive basketball is winding down and it's a great time to appreciate what you have been blessed with.