An open letter to Nate Jozsa
One thing you will discover, I believe, with age and maturity, is that life just is not always fair.Sometimes the guy who works the hardest doesn't get the rewards he is seeking, whether it's an advancement at work or the final payoff in the athletic arena.
It's how we handle the trying moments that reveals our inner character and fortitude.Sometimes, it also reveals our flaws. I prefer to view life's obstacles and difficulties from an optimistic perspective. Isn't there aways a bright side?
So, you lost a state championship wrestling match? I believe that means you were second in the state. You got to experience the thrill of participating in the Grand March, which I've seen now from a seat in the stands for 38 consecutive years. It must have been a memorable moment to have been on that floor as the lights were flashing and you paraded around with the other championship contenders.
Journalists like myself try to find that special angle to a story. When someone sets school records for career takedowns and career technical falls in only two years of attending a school, and at that one with an outstanding tradition covering decades in the sport, that's a newsworthy event deserving of recognition.
When journalists cover an event such as the state wresting meet, they aren't just seeking the winners to profile. That's understandable because there's always a bigger picture than a particular match or game. That was emphasized to me years ago.
In fact, it was at a state wrestling tournament, much like the one which ended Saturday night at the UI State Farm Center. With a bit of trepidation, I sought to interview an area athlete who had qualified for the championship match and had gotten beat.
A lot of similarities, really, to the position you were in following your Class 1A 138-pound match on Saturday. Do you know what that young man said when I asked to interview him?
He told me, "I'm so glad you still want to talk to me even after I didn't win. I put in a lot of work to get here and you talking to me now will help me get over the loss. What do you want to know?"
What did I want to know? Wow.
No middle finger extended in the air as I approached him. No sentences filled with more profanities than other words. Just a gracious and respectful -- though obviously heartbroken -- teen-ager explaining his feelings and emotions as he was trying to cope with the day's disappointment.
It could have been you.
It makes me wonder. What if the roles had been reversed this Saturday? Isn't it interesting to consider such possibilities?
Suppose I had been the teen-aged athlete who lost a 1-0 decision in a hard-fought match and you had been the professional reporter assigned to cover the event. How would you feel to be disrespected publicly by that teen-ager in front of many of your colleagues as well as dozens of other people whose names you don't even know?
Of course, I can't put myself in your shoes and truly imagine how you would feel if that had happened to you, but I can accurately speak about how it made me feel.
Remember the part I mentioned earlier about life not being fair? Instances like this give a guy cause to wonder. Why bother? Why care?
Most of us in the working world have jobs where we get paid for eight-hour shifts (or perhaps seven-hour shifts) five days a week. If you've put your hours in by the end of the work day on Friday, what do you have to look forward to?
My wife would have loved for me to have had a day off Saturday, instead of volunteering 14 hours to attend a state wrestling tournament because I thought it was the right thing to do. After all, the circulation area I cover for my daily newspaper had three athletes advance into state championship matches and it didn't seem fair that they would not receive coverage for the moments which would be the pinnacle of their season.
Win or lose. It was a special occasion. Or so I thought.
It's not beyond the realm of comprehension to think that you could have won that final match 1-0. How would it feel to bask in the limelight without a media presence to document the event because they'd worked their hours for the week?
Wouldn't seem fair, would it?
But here's what is really unfair. I mean, extremely unfair.
The actions and conduct of one individual often serve as a black mark to those associated with the person. What are folks going to think about the school you attend, Argenta-Oreana, when they hear about the behavior of one of its students at a state tournament?
Why tarnish the name of a good school with outstanding administrative leaders? And what about your coach?
My goodness, in 38 years of actively covering wrestling I can't think of many that compare in commitment and knowledge of the sport than Gary Cook. When you -- or at least when I -- talk about class people, he's at the head of the list.
I feel so sorry for you, but not because of that one-point loss. There are so many valuable lessons that can be learned through sports and they are available equally to champions and to those not even good enough to make the varsity team.
Sportsmanship. Pride. Dealing with adversity. Grace. Rising above. Discipline.Seeking improvement. Bettering oneself. Embracing challenges. Courtesy. Rebounding from setbacks. Moving forward. Doing what's right.
Oh yes, did I mention sportsmanship?
I didn't mention winning. That's no accident.
A wrestling match ends in six minutes. Life goes on indefinitely. There's still a lot to be learned.