I am a happy fan. My favorite team, the Phoenix Mercury, recently won the Women’s National Basketball Association title. As I watched the games, I was mostly caught up in the excitement of cheering for the home team. But the following day, I thought about how these gifted athletes provided a lesson in winning on and off the court.

Each Mercury player is extremely talented. But any sports fan knows that individual talent is not what wins team championships. You must be able to work together as a highly tuned unit. I watched in awe as the Mercury ran, passed and took shots with the elegance of a tightly choreographed Broadway production.

That is not to say that everything is pretty. These gals were knocked on the butts, took elbows to the face, only to charge forward and muscle their way to the hoop to make shots, grab rebounds, or block shots by their worthy opponents, the Indiana Fever.

I don’t know all the injuries that took place, but I know for sure that Penny Taylor was playing with a broken finger and had a tooth knocked loose in an earlier game. Cappie Poindexter was whacked in the eye and had to leave the game because she couldn’t see. Fortunately, Cappie had no severe optical damage and she returned with a vengeance, knocking in important buckets at crucial times, in spite of a swollen black eye. Diana Taurasi always plays like it’s the last minute of her life. I don’t know what injuries she sustained, but the way she attacks the game, I’m sure returns home with more than her fair share of cuts and bruises.

As I was taking a walk the day after the championship, I thought about how the game mirrored life. These gals were knocked down, beaten up, and yet they kept on driving forward. They didn’t let losses, pain, the possibility of significant injury or any other factor deter them from their goal. When I saw Cappie Poindexter return to the court, I actually winced. I thought about her eye and all those flying elbows. I was really concerned about her welfare. And then, as if she could read my thoughts, she answered by swishing a basket with nothing but net.

The point is, we all face hardships. And we all will be knocked on our butts from time to time. We can boldly move ahead, tip toe with caution, or cower in a corner. The choice is ours. But winners, whether on or off the court, are not timid about living.

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