While a few of my training partners were out tackling Natchez Trace again, I was nestled in bed watching my Badgers take down the Hoosiers in the Big 10 basketball tournament. It was the 12th straight time Wisconsin has beaten Indiana.
I absolutely love Wisconsin Basketball and Football and for a while now I have been trying to figure out why. Why do I (or anyone for that matter) get so wrapped up in a sports team? It seems a little silly, but for years I have tried to loosen the connection and can’t do it.
It must have something to do with allegiance and living vicariously through what the team represents. I can definitely relate with the Badgers’ identity. They are typically referred to is scrappy, over-achievers and I am perfectly comfortable with that tag, especially when it comes to Ironman.
In sports, I think it’s important to focus on the task at hand and not get intimidated. Like in the movie Hoosiers, when Gene Hackman took a tape measure to the rim and free throw line to remind his team that the basket was the same height on the big stage as it is in their little gym back in Hinkley. The field and conditions are the same for everyone.
The other day a friend texted me in the first half of the Wisconsin/Michigan game saying, “The Badgers look terrible.” I responded with, “Yeah, until they win the game.”
Wisconsin was losing 20-17 at the half. A terrible offensive exhibition, but scored 51 in the 2nd half and won 68-59.
They key is to stick with your plan.
Swimming is swimming, biking is biking, and running is running. We do it all the time. Sure, the courses vary, but the body movements are the same. It doesn’t matter if there’s an Ironman logo on the fences and buoys, it comes down to performing. What’s in our body and mind.
The Badgers play their game no matter who they play. They work on the little things in practice, then execute them during the “race.” Are they the best team in the country, no, but they are arguably one of the most consistent over the last 10 years.
They believe in their strengths, they work on their weaknesses, and they push all the way to the finish line. It doesn’t always translate to a win, but they never go down easily.
Consider this quote from a former Michigan State player who made it to the NBA:
“People ask me what was one of the best things about going to the NBA, I laugh and joke and say I don’t have to play Wisconsin again. It’s a chess match with them. They are going to play their style. They are not deterred from what they like to do. So it’s always tough to play them. They don’t back down. They are always strong and tough and they play well together. They play within themselves. That’s what makes them a tough out whenever you see them.”
– Mateen Cleaves
Not only does that make me proud to be a Badger fan, I think there’s a great lesson there about staying true to who you are. Play within yourself, don’t back down, and you’ll be a tough out.