Just a couple of months ago, a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to go on a spontaneous road trip to see Fall Out Boy live in concert. I've never been one to go see bands perform live, but I enjoy travelling and experiencing new things, and he had an extra ticket, so I went along. I don't really remember much about the show; as far as live music goes, it was a good concert. However, as the show wrapped up, the face of the band, Pete Wentz, starting speaking about the American education system. One sentence, in particular, became ingrained in my mind:
"Your last failure is the last thing that happens before your first success."
Such a simple sentiment, but an easy concept to forget. Unless you are some kind of perfect protege, you will always experience failure before breaking through. Sometimes, there are many failures. Thomas Edison had thousands of attempts at creating a light bulb before, literally, the light came on. And yet, he persisted, and the entire world changed as a result. Perhaps that lends credence to his quote:
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
My message to this Thunder team, if I were capable of reaching them, would be simple: you are right there, standing just below the summit of greatness. Don't give up now. I have no doubt that the past few seasons have been discouraging, but they are the flames that purge out the flaws, making you stronger and sharper. Embrace the defeat for what it can be: a lesson in what is possible.
"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it." - Greg Anderson
When I was in high school, I was one of those nerds in the marching band. From that experience, I learned a lot about enjoying the journey. See, the Oklahoma 6A marching band setting has long been dominated by the same schools, with Broken Arrow being the cream of the crop. The Pride of Broken Arrow is one of the best 3 marching programs in the country and has dominated in the state of Oklahoma (they've won every year since 2002).
It was always easy to get wrapped up in the scores. Each contest would conclude with a ceremony called massing; the finalist bands would take the field while all of the scores were announced. This was always a moment of tension and suspense (and usually bitter cold), and it usually ended in disappointment.
My junior year was different. We had a first-year director who was still establishing himself. Before performing, he told us to leave it on the field and enjoy every moment of the performance. I wish I had a video of that performance; it was by far the best show I was ever a part of (and we performed in several NFL stadiums on national stages).
The remarkable moment, however, came after the show. That band director, in his first state competition ever, achieved something I have never seen before; he convinced us that the scores didn't matter. Sure, every director said those words, but he genuinely meant it and convinced us to buy in as well. The moment I remember from that contest isn't the announcing of scores, it's the last minute of our performance when we poured the last bit of energy into a final set. The performance finally meant more than the results.
Why do I tell this story? Because intrinsic value is something frequently missing from athletics. Championships mean everything, and any other result is seen as a failure. But if the only thing that matters is a championship, then that means 435 players just wasted a year of their lives. Hundreds of staff members gave up 365 days that they will never get back. Hundreds of thousands of fans spent countless hours that mean absolutely nothing.
Perhaps, though, we should look back on this season and remember the good things. We watched several young players grow and develop into stronger individuals. We watched a team start learning new methods to succeed. And we got to enjoy watching the makings of the strongest postseason run of all time, that fell short by just 200 seconds. Remember those things.
Gracious in defeat
"I will remember this when I am defeated. To keep dignity, and give honor when it's due, so that defeat is not disgrace. And I hope I don't have to do it often." -Orson Scott Card
Golden State has had a phenomenal season. For them to stand strong against the fight OKC put up this series shows that they deserved to win this series. And while I will never respect Draymond Green, what the other players on that team showed this series was worthy of being respected. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are two of the best shooters ever, and will likely remain that way for some time. Steve Kerr has done things with that team that I hope Billy Donovan can emulate here in OKC.
When adversity struck, Golden State came out on top. From an OKC point-of-view, that hurts, but they deserve the credit for not giving up when it seemed impossible.
I personally have really enjoyed this season. It was a good year for my teams, with OU football and basketball making the final fours, and the Thunder almost making the finals. I've especially enjoyed my time here at WTLC. The commenters here are unique, insightful, and have helped create a great community.
I know I speak for all of the writers here when I say that I hope you all stick around. Don't let the offseason keep you away; we will still be here putting out new content for you. If you decide to take an off-season break, then come back and join us next season, and hopefully we can watch our Thunder reach that ultimate goal together.