The lady at the traffic light Monday morning had her Carolina Panthers flags flying and I asked her in traffic if she would keep them on and she said: “I still love them. My flags will fly!”
Then she drove off, but her lesson was clear. A loss in Sunday night’s Super Bowl was just that – one loss.
Panthers fans are heartbroken, but a year to be remembered is not erased by a single loss in the Super Bowl. A loss is a chance to get back up and win the next time. Sports, politics, life, school –if you win every time then the win after a loss is never as sweet.
Imagine if Barack Obama had quit politics after he was crushed by Bobby Rush in 2000 in an election for Congress in Illinois. Obama got up off the mat after a beating and, like his politics or not, became a U.S. senator and then this great country’s first black president.
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Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1976 and was creamed. He went on to win in 1980, becoming an icon who shapes Republican Party politics in America still. But he lost to Jerry Ford in the GOP nomination process in 1976. Reagan could have quit, but he did not, and he changed the world
But sports contests are where losses can bring on future greatness, because there is another season ahead.
Winthrop University made it to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for years and years in the 1990s and early and mid-2000s. The Eagles were demolished each time. This small school from a small conference worked harder, played better, didn’t give up after losing a heartbreaker to Tennessee in 2006. And that came after losing a close game to Gonzaga the year before.
In 2006, Winthrop led much of the way but lost to Tennessee. Winthrop players cried and the coach, Gregg Marshall, then soon left for College of Charleston. But Marshall changed his mind and came back for the 2007 season. He came back because all he had taught his players about not giving up until you win was at stake.
And finally, in 2007, Winthrop defeated the best-known name in college sports, Notre Dame, in the NCAA tournament.
In Spokane, Wash., the dream of every athlete who had lost finally was real. Winthrop’s fans came out in record numbers and there on national TV, the Eagles won. They brought people together to cheer. They did not quit.
During their Super Bowl run, the Panthers united people. The team’s success was contagious. Every fan walked taller, smiled wider, cheered louder.
Friday in Chester, the principal at Chester Park Center of Literacy Through Technology held a pep rally for the Panthers for the whole school where she talked about courage. One student at the school, La’Darious Wylie, was killed in October saving his sister when a car was headed toward her. Tammy Graham talked to 500 children Friday about what it takes to be a winner. Winners never quit, she said. La’Darious never quit.
But that was before the game.
Monday morning after the game, many children at the school were heartbroken. Some cried. Graham made the morning announcements and spoke about how losing sometimes is a part of life. But a win can follow it.
She told every child: “The message is still the same. Don’t give up. Keep Pounding.”
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065