Growing up I had one dream.
To play high school basketball for my Dad, and to help our high school, Palatine, get downstate.
It was a dream that I thought about often. Running onto the floor at Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois.
As you can imagine I grew up in the gym and spent a ton of time in a lot of locker rooms, but there is one locker room I will never forget.
East Aurora High School, March of 1982 and I was 12 years-old and little did I know that what was about to happen would only add fuel to my fire.
Palatine, who finished third in the MSL North was playing powerhouse St. Joe’s (yes, the St. Joe’s from the movie Hoop Dreams) who was loaded with talent. The gym was a sea of red and there was not a seat to be had in the gym that sat 4,500 so the Fire Marshall stopped letting people in 30 minutes before tipoff.
No one believed that Palatine even had a shot. As a matter of fact, if Vegas took bets for high school basketball games they may not have been able to come up with a line for this game.
But my Dad and Palatine believed. And for 31 minutes and 59 seconds (32 minutes in a high school basketball game) it seemed as if the impossible was going to happen.
Then, with :01 on the clock, St. Joe’s tied the game and sent it into overtime where they would win 52-50.
It was a gut wrenching heartbreaker as my Dad’s guys outplayed St. Joe’s the entire game. Hell, to this day even St. Joe’s guys will admit that the wrong team won that night.
I remember sitting in the locker room amongst my heroes, my idols…and watching them cry. So, I cried with them and that’s when I heard my Dad speak and the words he spoke still resonate with me to this day.
After telling the guys to get their heads up and to look at him he explained they had nothing to be ashamed of. And simply put it in perspective by saying, “If that is the worse thing that happens to you in your life, then you have lived a helluva life fellas.”
I think that was the night I realized that sometimes things just don’t work out even though you deserve them to go your way. And that was the night I vowed I would help get Palatine downstate.
If I didn’t learn it that night, I most certainly did in 1988 when we lost the Regional Championship to our crosstown rival on a half-court shot at the buzzer. They were 25-1 going into the game and again, everyone wrote us off. And again, we outplayed them for 31 minutes and 59 seconds.
There was no getting Palatine downstate as that was the last game of our senior season.
Then, just 16 days later, after a two-year battle with Leukemia, Brian Delanty passed away. Brian was two years older than me but he always took the time to kick my ass in pick up games, pick me up when I was down, and never failed to put a smile on my face even when I was visiting him in ICU.
I was crushed. Nothing seemed to make sense at all.
Sometimes things just do not make sense. None, whatsoever.
We have all been there.
Whether it be:
- Losing to a team who you know gets by on talent alone and does not work nearly as hard as you or care half as much.
- A sales deal that you worked tirelessly on and seemed to cultivate an amazing relationship with the client, only to have them walk away when it came time to sign for a competitor who can only beat you on price…by a tiny margin.
- The relationship where someone walked away without explanation for someone who you know will not value them and treat them the way they should be treated.
- A day/week/month that has completely gone off the rails despite your preparation and commitment to the process.
- Losing a recruit whether it be in athletics or in the corporate world, to someone who you know does things the wrong way, has a hidden agenda, and truly does not care about the growth of their team.
We talk often about growing through adversity and learning from failure.
But what about when it doesn’t seem to add up. Isn’t it true that if you work hard enough, long enough, and smart enough good things will happen?
Usually. However, success is not guaranteed.
Sometimes there are no explanations.
We talk about growing through adversity and learning from failure. That is so critical.
But we have all had those moments where we do not want to hear anything inspirational or motivational.
I get it.
So what do we do…we Keep Moving Forward.
Control the controllable and that is your response.
Figure out what happened and maybe the answer is that there is no answer.
Remember our question: Are you doing the best you can with what you have, to become the best you are capable of becoming?
Be brutally honest with yourself about what happened and what it means, own the emotion, run to the next fight, embrace the next opportunity, and do not look back.
Life is going to keep going and is certainly not going to wait for you to catch up.
We do not determine the rules…only the resolve, resiliency and grit with which we keep attacking.
I needed to read this at this moment in my life. Thank you for writing it. I didn’t even know that Brian passed away. I remember him in Highschool, always friendly and out going. Hoops for the Pirates.
Thank you so much for sharing this! Yes, he passed my senior year as I was two years behind him. Still think of him quite often!