To all of those who have experienced defeat:
Only those who have worked hard and sacrificed only to come short of your ultimate goal can understand the loss and disappointment you feel. I am one of those people.
This letter was placed anonymously in my locker after a last second defeat by Nebraska my junior year. My hope is that it provides you with the same perspective it gave me throughout the years.
"After watching your team play Nebraska, I just wanted to tell you all a few things that can be easy to forget when you suffer a loss like that. First, I want you to know that there is a core group of supporters that will never give up on you. These people still see everything you felt you lost when the final score changed to the other team's favor. We still remember the heart and fighting and great plays and everything that made that game incredible to watch.
The fair weather fans will remember that score, but we will remember a team that never gave up- and that is winning. This is probably little consolation when you come so close to a goal you wanted so badly, but this leads to the next and most important thing that you did that day and all the days when you play to win.
For many people out there who watch you, including myself, their goals have been interrupted by severe health problems; their goals too have been taken away from them and the pain of something like that is very hard to deal with. For these people- children in cancer wards in hospitals, adults who can’t even leave their homes, those who live with anxiety of declining health every minute of every day- you do something wonderful and little talked about.
For the three hours I and others watch the game, we are transported out of our situation, which is beyond our control, and into the fight with you. Your game is a microcosm of the battle everyone who is sick fights and we can participate vicariously in that great experience with you. That child suffering cancer is playing linebacker, and the bed-ridden man who can’t leave his house is a wide receiver striding after a ball down field. And all the pain and joy and effort that you go throughout an entire game, including the pain of losing a game like that to Nebraska, is a gift you might not ever really realize you have given to some of those people who are watching you.
These people who live in uncertainty and pain can identify best of all with your pain in having a goal given and taken away again… but it is also these sick people who can tell you that one’s goals are sometimes achieved and sometimes painfully lost, but that is the very fight for the goal which defines a person and that is the most important struggle of all. It is that struggle, and not the win, which transports those who have no choices into this incredible experience of life, which you give every Saturday.
It isn’t the score that I remember about the game, win or lose, but the experience of freedom, which is so much more valuable."