As exciting as the NCAA tournament is, I couldn’t help but notice the constant lies that will define most of these athletes as they are eliminated out of the tournament. There are 64 teams that begin the NCAA basketball tournament for both the women and men. At the end of these three to four weeks, only four teams will remain who will accomplish what they have waited, and physically trained for; the chance to be in the NCAA National Championship game. All the other players and teams will have their goals shattered. What happens in the self-talk of all these athletes? They leave their college career telling themselves and the world things such as: "It was the dumbest mistake of my life", "I take the blame for the loss", "I've been playing basketball my whole life and I know I shouldn't have done that."
One of the biggest upsets so far in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament was Butler vs. No. 1 Pitt. It was one of the most dramatic endings yet. With 2.2 seconds left, Butler leads by one point 70-69. As Pitt inbounds the ball, a crazy long pass to half court results in Butler's Shelvin Mac, fouling with 1.4 seconds left. Both teams are stunned at how the game is finishing up, but it does not end there. After Pitt makes their first free throw, and the ball game is tied up, the second foul shot is missed. It is at that moment that Butler's Matt Howard grabs the rebound, and is immediately fouled by Pitt's Nasir Robinson- "a foul even more unnecessary than the one that preceded it." Matt Howard made one free throw with 0.8 seconds left to upset the No. 1 Pittsburgh team 71-70. The ending of this game is just one example of many, where a last minute play will effect and impact a player forever.
The book Telling Yourself the Truth discusses three misbeliefs known as the Depressive Triad. A person first devalues self, second the situation, and third devalues his prospects for future. Reading the comments of the Pitt player, Nasir Robinson, you can sense the guilt, shame, and devastation of his last second decision, that resulted in a loss for his team. My heart went out to him as i watched, and heard commentators explain the dumb mistake he made. It seems like when it comes to sports, athletes are never allowed to make a mistake without always having someone remind them of what they did. Most of these athlete's identity becomes the sport they play, and are forever defined by the plays that either won or lost the game, lead them to the tournament, made it to the final four, or kept them from dancing in March (an expression used in college basketball as those teams that are still playing in March… aka March Madness).
My prayer is that Nasir Robinson and other athletes can quickly learn to examine their self-talk, and identify the lies they are believing about themselves, as a result of their performance. The book says it best, "we must systematically discover, analyze, argue against and replace with truth the misbeliefs in our lives."