DRACULA TALKS WINNING AND LOSING
I am writing this blog entry on the long, six-hour, bus-ride home after our Polish League victory against Ostrow on Sunday. Ostrow was 3-1 coming into this game, but are a tough team to beat any season because of their home-court advantage. They have the smallest gym in the league - referring to the size of the court. It is so short that you can take a half-court shot and still be in your range. And so narrow that I can barely fit my size 18 shoes in bounds for a baseline three-point attempt. In fact, one season, my coach - Andrej Urlep - told me not to even go to the corner as it would be too hard to keep my adidas Superstars from stepping on the sideline. One year, I would like to get a stagger screen at mid-court and throw up a smooth jump shot and see the results.
Speaking of half-court shots, during our preparations for our Euroleague home opener last week against Le Mans, we saw video of each of the players on the opposing team. This early in the season, there aren't a lot of games to pull clips from, so the backup three-man for Le Mans - Nicolas Batum - had only one clip on our scouring video...a shot at the buzzer from over halfcourt. Were we to assume that this is his normal game-shot and we must be ready for it? We were all laughing under our breath when we watched that clip. As it turned out, we didn't allow Batum a single half-court shot. Amazing defense and great scouting report!
It was nice to win in Ostrow tonight, but beating Le Mans was a much more important win for us. In the words of CTU agent Jack Bauer: "We didn't have a CHOICE!" We had to win! It is VERY crucial to win home games in the Euroleague and even though we had a big lead on them at halftime, to squeak out a two-point victory was a big relief. Especially after losing a hard-fought game against Efes in Istanbul the week before. We felt we played well enough to win in Turkey, so it was disappointing to leave with a loss. However, we weren't totally upset with the way we played.
The same cannot be said about our debacle two Sundays ago in the Polish League - losing at home to Polonia. There are many types of losses that athletes experience - blowout losses to great teams, close losses to good teams (like our loss to Efes), and probably the worst type of loss - the one that happened to us last week - a loss at home to a team that you are supposed to dominate. Before I go any further, I should apologize to all the Polish League teams for my statement in my first blog entry. I declared that "at least half of the teams in the Polish League have less than a 5% chance of beating us". Apparently I was wrong - as we were totally outplayed by my old team, Polonia, who will struggle to make the playoffs. I can't remember the last time I was so upset after a game. Not only because of the loss, but because I played poorly, as well. My play does not affect the outcome of my team's games as much as it did in my younger days with other teams I played for, but I still take losses hard. I grew up with a mentality which combined these two statements - "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." - Vince Lombardi, Hall of Fame NFL coach. And, "The most important thing is to have fun. And the best way to have fun is to win." - Dave Vanderwerf, my high school basketball coach. However, over the years, playing ball, I have realized that the reason winning is important to me is not because it is the "only thing", but rather, because losing sucks so much. It's not a news flash that it sucks to lose, but I'm not sure if basketball fans realize that the lows from a loss are much greater than the highs from a win. In other words, it feels much worse to lose than it feels good to win. Each time I read that statement it makes me cringe at my English, but I think you know what I mean.
Fortunately for me, I have two kids to keep me from getting too depressed about any losses. Five years ago, I would have been angry for days about the two losses last week. However, as I came out of the locker room seething over the loss, I saw my son, who is three-and-a-half, running around on the court and I knew I couldn't be mad for long. He asked me, "Daddy not happy?" And I explained to him, "Dawson, Daddy's team lost the game and Daddy is upset, so I need you to help make me happy tonight." He immediately turned to me and gave me a big kiss. It's hard to stay mad when you get a kiss from your smiling kid. The Halloween party we threw for the kids the next day helped to keep our minds off the loss too - I was Dracula. Losses are inevitable in the profession that we are in. Even though the two wins from this week don't trump last weeks losses, it sure makes for a "shorter" six-hour bus ride and a much better week as we prepare for Baby Shaq and the rest of the Olympiacos squad.
Jeff Nordgaard - Sopot, Poland
Monday, November 06, 2006