The Lonliest Number


March 9, 2011 by David Gillaspie

And The Only One That Counts?

Go to an NBA game with 20,000 fans.

Or an NFL game with  70,000.

A political rally can gather hundreds of thousands

A huge high school football crowd?  8,000 unless you live in Texas.

Then there’s wrestling.

You might find yourself in a wrestle-off in a room with another guy and two assistant coaches.

An early crowd at a state tournament might find 2K.

How many fans see the Fargo finals?

Whatever the size of a room, if you’re a competitor, it’s all about you.

Some sports boil it down.  Tennis gets to the last two, but they call it singles.

Boxing gets it right, but wrestling sets the tone.

Ask anyone you know who’s played many sports if they remember a wrestling match, then stand back.

Ask friends of a wrestler if they remember any matches, then stand further back.  They remember.

No matter the size of the room where you start, it ends up with one guy standing on top of the podium; there’s only room enough for one person.

Whether it’s eight placers, or six, or three guys on a podium, even they know it’s made for one.

You might have the ‘first place matters and everything else is last place’ attitude, but don’t throw your silver and bronze medals in the trash on the way out of the gym.  There’s a hundred guys who want those medals, too.

What do you do when it’s you at the top? 

What if you are the champion of the day?  If you’ve never been there, start planning.

Since you’re thinking of the podium, it’s a given you’ve done the work.  Your lifting and running and repetitions of one move, then another, are done.  You beat the one guy you’ve feared all year.

Now it’s you stepping up.

That’s the moment you realize it’s not all about you, it’s never been all about you.  It’s your parents kicking in for your gear and taking you to matches.

It’s your brothers setting standards for you to pass, and cheering loudest when you do.

It’s your friends who stand by you and make you feel like you’re killing something in them when you talk about a future without wrestling.

It’s your coaches who explain why you need to cut weight, why you need to go to another tournament, why you need to chase the best competition.

Even though it’s all about you, let the others in when you can.

The people around the mat, in the stands, are all part of your community.  It’s nothing you did.  They were around before you; they’ll be there after you.  Since they are around at the same time as you, give them something good to remember.

Building a community of memories is different from promoting a business community, but not much.

For your town’s Main Street to work, the business owners and landlords have to engage with strangers, just like you wrestle guys you don’t know from places you’ve never heard of. 

Businessmen explain themselves in a way to build a connection, just like you wrestle with intent and build connections to people who think they’re guy can beat you. 

Once strangers feel a connection, they’re no longer strangers.  Then they fulfill their end of the bargain and buy something on Main Street, just like friends, family, and coaches of good guys you beat come to say something. 

They’re buying the idea that you kick butt better than their butt kicker.  That’s your community, and they remember.  But where does it start?

A community of memories begins early.

You say, “I’m going out for wrestling this year.”

You hear, “It’s not a healthy sport.  They starve themselves.”

You hear, “It’s not clean, it’s not a hygienic sport.”

You hear, “Why would you want another guy grabbing you?  Do we need to talk?”

Then you say, “It’ll get me in better shape than anyone in this family’s ever been in.  I’ll be stronger.  The extra structure will help organize my time so I’ll get better grades.  About the grabbing, I’ll be doing the grabbing, so that’s where that is.  I might get grabbed back, but the idea is doing more to win.”

A year or two later you hear a different song.

You hear, “I can’t believe you beat that guy.”

You hear, “Weren’t you afraid to go out there?”

You hear, “When I grow up I want to wrestle.”

Your community of memories share the seasons forever.  They remember your first practice, your first match.  You remember it too, but differently. 

They remember the time you couldn’t talk because you were cutting weight so hard your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth.  You don’t remember that, but you remember winning the match that week.

They remember you frozen on the podium, then leaning over for your medal.  You remember thinking, “This is the guy who beat Dan Gable in his last college match?”

Once the memory sinks in you’ll be able to reflect on what it means.  It might take a while.  Until then go with this:  Tell every kid you know who seems like they’ve got some stick-to-it-ness that they would look good wearing a medal on a podium. 

Tell them they look strong enough to do the roadwork and the weight room. 

If they have a friend around, tell them both to join the wrestling team to see who is really tough.

Don’t tell them that if they wrestle, they’ll both be tough guys.  They’ll find that out and share it with their own memory community.

And you’ll be a part of it, a big part.

By David Gillaspie


One thought on “The Lonliest Number

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