Monday, November 30, 2015

A Letter to the Warriors

To players and coaches alike:

     Losing has never been something that I'm okay with. Some people can give it everything they have, lose, and be okay. I guess it makes sense in theory. You did everything you could, and things didn't turn out like you anticipated. 

     I don't...get...those people.

     Losing isn't something that I easily tolerate. I'm not saying that people who deal with losses better than me are wrong. I actually envy the idea of coping with loss better than I do. Problem is, it just doesn't work. Try as I might to push the sickening feeling out of my stomach after a loss, it never goes away. When we lose a game, no matter how good the opponent was, how much we got be a by- really whether I even played in the game or not, I can't stand it. I can't sleep that night. I've actually thrown up after games just because I hated, so much, that we lost. It doesn't register with me. I'm a winner. I win. I like winning. That's the end of it, and the point I'm trying to make, I suppose. I like winning with class, and I like winning by a lot, period.

     Now that we're on the same page...

     Throughout my time as a Warrior football player, there was one thing that eased the pain of losing. A chance at winning after that. The cool thing about football is that there's always next "fill in the blank". Next practice, next week, next year. No matter what happens, you always have a chance at redemption. A chance to improve your stride. A chance to win. Last Saturday, as the clock began to bring me closer and closer to the end of my final game, the realization occurred to me that there was no next time. It was over.

     They tell you your entire senior year to give everything you have, because the worst feeling in the world is knowing that you could have done more while you had the chance. I get that, I guess. But in reality, I submit that having regrets only increases the worst feeling in the world.  Reality is that no one could ever say anything to prepare you for the feeling that whispers "its over". I was limited in my time playing football this season. When I had the chance, I did, honestly, give it all I had. Watching that clock wind down, I had no regrets. Yet, I am confident that the feeling which met me in that moment could not have been anything but the worst feeling I've felt in my life. As captain, I was blessed and honored to have lead this team. It was difficult, yes. There was pressure, yes. But I will tell you this, and players, I mean this with everything in me.

     With seconds left on that scoreboard, I felt the weight of 33 men's football season being lifted from my shoulders. No more pressure. No more anticipation. It was done. I was free from failing these fine young men, which I guess was my biggest fear. Even so, feeling the weight of captainship being removed from my shoulders was one of the heaviest, suppressing, suffocating experiences I have ever dealt with. 

     Football is weird. Really. You paint a giant rectangle on a big open field, then push and shove and sweat and bleed in order to get an oblong "ball" of some sort past a designated line. It's a guy thing. Theres no prize except the satisfaction of knowing you beat some other guys you've never met in your life. Obviously a man kinda thing. But there's something about doing just that, winning, for no other reason than the desire to win, that brings men together. We were created to fight. Created to want to win. Created to be Warriors. The Lord made us that way on purpose. The moment of truth, when both teams are lined up, one single hesitant moment before hell breaks lose for 6 seconds- that's where men bond. It's how we grow. How we learn to love. Fighting for someone else, knowing that that person is fighting just as hard, for you...lifelong friendships are built like that. 6 seconds at a time. Maybe as men, we just like sweating and running into people and competition and winning. But maybe what we actually crave is the brotherhood that is created through fighting for one another. As terrible as we are about sharing our feelings and talking about real stuff, one thing remains true, and that is that we crave, more than anything, love. I suppose The Lord made us that way on purpose as well.

     Many people like to call their close friends "family", but I'm not sure that too many of them know exactly what that means. Playing for the Warriors, playing for you, taught me this. Family is not just being there for each other and caring. Its...figuring out how to overcome things. And choosing to love each other when you don't want to. And forgiving. And crying. And shouting at the top of your lungs because you don't care who hears. It's depending on people not only o make that block or that catch but to pick you up after you fail to do so. Its being down and getting back up, coming back from behind, because there's more than your own motives riding on something. 

     This wasn't the longest of letters. There isn't too much to say except this.

     Warriors, thank you. Thank you for fighting. Thank you for loving me. For teaching me. For letting me lead you. The privilege that you provided me was more than I ever deserved, or dreamed of being blessed with. Each and every one of you mean the world to me. You've taught me more about myself then I ever could have learned anywhere else, and I do not take that lightly. You impacted me.

      I don't lose very well. You know that, but know this. The effort that the Warrior team gave this season is something that will last. It will stick with me, with you, and it will reach others for a long, long time. I've never been one to resort to the "no matter what the scoreboard says, you win if you do your best" thing. But right now, with it all over, I leave you with this.

     You won. You won by more than I ever thought possible. Warrior Strong.

     I have no reserves.
     I did not retreat.
     Regret is nowhere to be found.

     Thank you, Warriors, for 2015. 

Crayton Fowler



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