Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Catch, fair use claimed

Greetings All:

It's "bowl season," that time when a couple of dozen college football teams get the chance to play one more game.  For two teams, the National Championship is at stake.  For the rest, braggin' rights, final rankings, recruiting, and other intangibles are the prize.  Oh, and then there's one tangible matter- money.  In my head, I hear John Belushi from Animal House singing ", that's what I want..."

This is not a dig at college football.  Anyone who knows me even remotely knows this is a passion of mine.  I've written about it in the past and fondly recall trips to Kinnick Stadium to watch my beloved Hawkeyes play.  However, as I have gotten older, I see football from...a wider viewpoint.  There are life lessons there for all of us.  Here's one for today:  Always be ready.

That's it, always be ready.  I'll elaborate.  The photo above shows Warren Holloway making the game-winning catch in the 2005 Capital One Bowl against Louisiana State University, LSU.  Iowa and LSU will meet New Year's Day for a re-match of sorts in the Outback Bowl.  I affectionately refer to this as the "Mass at Dawn" bowl game as it is one of the first games of the day.

Back in 2005, Iowa had squandered a 24-12 lead in the 4th quarter.  Iowa had engaged in particularly poor clock management and was down to 9 seconds when then Iowa Quarterback Drew Tate launched a final pass down the field.  If you are a stats person, these are what are soberly referred to as "low percentage" plays.  In practical parlance, it means desperation.

Warren Holloway, a fifth-year senior went from a somewhat unknown to an immediate immortal in Iowa football lore.  (Well, that might be a bit over-dramatic, but go with me on this.)  As his college career was about to expire, he found himself sprinting down the field with the ball and the game in his hands.  The result was a touchdown and there was much rejoicing.  That is, if you were a Hawkeye fan.  For the LSU faithful, it was a bad dream.  There is a famous expanded photo of Holloway streaking down the field with various looks of shock and dismay on LSU fans.  Needless to say, it was not the end they were hoping for.

I am still thrilled with this win almost a decade later.  As I mentioned above, I also see a larger life lesson that can apply to all of us- always be ready.

Here's a quote from Holloway about that play from The Quad City Times on December 27, 2013:

“When I saw the ball coming my way, it felt so strange. I know there were so many people around, but it felt like I was there all alone,’’ Holloway said. “I just tried to stay calm and do the things that I do every day in practice, all the fundamentals.’’

That's sage advice.  You never know when you're be called upon to make a big play, a huge contribution.  The cynic might say that Holloway might not have even been the original choice for Tate to throw the ball.  I'll retort:  Who cares?  The point is that he was the guy who was there to catch the ball.  He was the guy who recalled those countless actions done in practice.  As Tony Robbins is fond of saying, "Repetition is the mother of skill."  I do not think it is a coincidence that they refer to repetitions as "reps" during a football practice.

As I write this post, I am reminded of the Abe Lincoln quote, "I will study and get ready and perhaps my chance will come."  Holloway probably thought that his chance would not come.  After all, he had not scored a touchdown in his entire college career.  That career was about to conclude with a goose egg in the stat book.  Still, Holloway was ready, just in case.  And Tate was throwing to Holloway.  He states in the above-referenced article that he thought he might have overthrown him.  Yet Holloway was able to match his stride and reel in the catch.  From what little I know of playing wide receiver, I understand that a good wide receiver knows he has to catch the ball regardless of how it is thrown.  Holloway did that and ended up with his first collegiate touchdown when it mattered most.

Perhaps in our lives we will never have a moment under such dramatic circumstances.  In my opinion, that should not diminish the importance of always being ready.  Sometimes the most important things we do in life are done without either witnesses or acknowledgement.  Sure, it's nice to get recognized but in the final analysis, that is simply a nice after-thought.

One might say that sports is at the mercy of the Gods of fate and luck plays an unfairly significant role in outcomes.  Fair enough.  Luck is a factor in life.  However, I would suggest this observation from one of my favorite writers, Seneca who mused, "Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity."
If "The Catch" was due to luck, then it was also due to the ingredients that make up luck.

In a few weeks, the college football season will end.  Few will recall who won or even played in these games with the exception of the fans of the teams.  There will be some heroics, I am sure.  I suspect that those who achieve glory on the gridiron will almost certainly recall the hours of practice under a blazing sun or bone-chilling wind.  They will have recalled the mantra of "always be ready."  Whether or not the rest of us ever snap a chinstrap or step foot onto a football field, we, too can always be ready.  After all, you never know when you'll have the chance to catch the equivalent of the ball in your endeavors.

Happy New Years & Go Hawks!


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