Last week while bowling in a sanctioned league made up of mostly retirees: seasoned bowlers who make me wish I had named our three-man team, “The Bad News Bears” (after the fictitious little league baseball team that was the subject of the 1970’s film bearing the same name–pun not intended), I learned another valuable life lesson. Now for the benefit of those of you who may not be familiar with the league bowling match-play format, typically two teams of (usually) three bowlers go head-to-head for three games. Four games are usually up for grabs in each match (three head-to-head games and a fourth “virtual” game which is essentially the aggregate score of the three games for each team). Well, the first game was easily my worst game of the season (if not my worst game as an adult): one where I couldn’t even manage to hit the 100-pin mark.
In the first game, with total pinfall and handicaps included, we ended up losing by 109, which seemed nearly insurmountable with our opponents’ highest handicap bowler also having the highest game among the three of them. Nevertheless, embarrassed by my performance (which essentially hurt my team and cost us the first game), I vowed to improve and carry my team in game two; and carry us I did! We won that game decisively, but managed only to pull within 74 in the total pins category. In my mind, I thought, “well, it looks like the best we can hope for here is a 2-2 tie; let’s just try to win this last game.” But a funny thing happened on the way to the tenth frame…
In focusing on myself and just trying not to leave any open frames (failure to score a strike or a spare), I was paying absolutely no attention to what our anchor (JW) was doing. He had quietly bowled 4 strikes in a row. I said to myself, “Wait a minute Matt! Look at what your partner is doing over there! He’s fighting hard and doing his best to make sure we win this last game; if you step your game up and get onboard the “strike train” with him, you guys could possibly pull this thing out and win not only this, the third game, but also take the total pin count!”
I figured it was worth the try and proceeded to do just that. I got focused. Up to that point, I had not bowled a single strike that last game, but did not have any open frames. My partner JW motivated me. I bowled a strike, then another. Then our other teammate JR got inspired by what was happening and he too began bowling strikes. JW would go on to throw six consecutive strikes before he would cool off, but I continued, bowling four strikes and two spares afterward. JR picked up the strike mantle where JW and I dropped it and as a team, we rolled our way to a crushing victory by a margin of 117 pins (well above the 74-pin deficit we had in total pins at the end of game two) and with it, claimed a 3-1 match victory!
In the aftermath, I went over to JW and gave him my account of what had just transpired. I told him that seeing his effort made me believe if I joined him by stepping up my own game, we could pull off an implausible victory. In my mind’s eye, I had visualized my teammate being a medieval warrior king who, though the battle seemed lost, refused to give up swinging his sword. I told him that his spirit, excellence and refusal to quit inspired me, which in turn, inspired our third teammate. The moral of the story? Always be your best, because you never know when someone needing a little inspiration might see your actions, or the way you carry yourself, and also decide to pick him or herself up and strive to be their best!