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The Agony of Defeat

I don’t like losing. In that, I am not much different than anybody else who plays in any kind of sport. I’ve certainly experienced my fair share of defeat, but it never gets any easier.

The reason I have to revisit this with myself is, unfortunately, a slow start. I’ve mentioned it briefly in this column before, but I play in an adult hockey league. At my age, I don’t play basketball and football every week like I did in my 20s, so hockey then takes on added weight in my mind as it is my sole sport.

Unfortunately, the hockey gods are not always kind.

A bit of history is in order here. I began playing ice hockey about 10 years ago after playing roller hockey. I started out with a bunch of other adults who were in one of the new ice programs in North Texas. We knew nothing but thought we knew everything. The league was an introductory one, a set number of practices and games with a coach provided. It was fun, and I was hooked.

A group of us decided we were ready to step it up and advanced into an upper league and experienced moderate success. But this being adult recreational sports players and teams come and go. Fast forward a few years and I have formed — along with a teammate — a new team to play closer to home.

We were awful. No, scratch that, we were beyond awful. The team ethos was “Good people first, results second,” and it showed. It was fun, but we amassed a painful 0-48 record. Yes, you read that right. Ugh.

But one night we beat a team we weren’t supposed to beat and it snowballed from there. A few seasons later we had the league’s best record and made our way into the playoffs. The other team, however, called in a ringer goalie from another league and shut us down in a one-and-done tilt. Game — and season — over.

We have since moved the rink in Allen, a nice facility with a good program. We’ve played two seasons now, a long winter season last year and a shorter summer season. The first season we made it through the playoffs and came within one final game of winning a championship. The hockey gods were smiling on us. Last year, a slow start doomed us to miss the playoffs by one point. The hockey gods were out to lunch on that one.

Well, this year, a shockingly slow start has me feeling pained. I may be years beyond them, but every article we publish about one of the local teams losing has me feeling their pain, especially in the bigger games, such as playoffs. I can definitely relate, even if it’s on a different scale. Our fans may number only among wives, girlfriends and a few friends, but we all feel the sting of failing to reach the top. As a former sports writer, the worst stories to do are the ones in which the home team’s season ends at the hand of another team. There is not much worse in the business than seeing a linebacker or softball pitcher fighting — unsuccessfully at times — to hold back the tears.

But we do what we do, and that is suit back up and continue to pursue excellence. I will do that, even if no one other than my wife is watching.

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