Aaron Johnson / The loss that sticks
Published 12:00 am, Friday, November 3, 2017
Everyone remembers the worst loss they have ever suffered. If you played sports at any point in your life, it can be hard to recall the wins — especially if there were too many to count.
But it is the tear-inducing, sleepless nights kind of losses that can stay with a former player decades after the final whistle has blown. For me it was in high school when I suffered a loss that can still send chills through my body to this day.
It was 2009 and I was a senior at Notre Dame of Fairfield playing on a wet, cold Friday night in Brookfield against the defending Class M champion Bobcats. Brookfield was a shell of its former glory from a season before, the terror twins Trevor and Travis Treibt that had bombarded us a year prior had thankfully graduated — and no one was happier that they weren’t on the field that day than we were.
We had just lost our starting quarterback to a knee injury the week before and our offense struggled. But our defense had been able to hold their offense to not much better. Both teams sloshed around on the turf to a scoreless tie at the end of regulation. In an era of high school football where the spread and high-powered offenses dominate the spectrum, to sit in an October downpour and watch two teams not find the endzone probably wasn’t the game of the week — in fact I know it wasn’t.
But on the field, it was the gritty kind of game that was fun to play in. Even after scoring a touchdown in overtime gave us a 6-0 lead, Brookfield finally broke through with a touchdown of their own. As they set up for the point after that would have sealed our fate, I remember my teammate yelling one word — “overload.”
We bunched on the right side. The ball was snapped. A single person got through the line. It was me. I blocked the extra point and sent our sideline into a frenzy. We’d be going to double overtime. I remember thinking this was going to be the game that defined our season.
After holding Brookfield to a field goal in the second overtime, our first down play got us to the one-yard line.
First and goal from the one.
It’s going to happen. This is the game that will define our season. The same thought came again. This was going to be the one.
The ball was snapped.
The ball was fumbled.
Brookfield recovered and we lost.
It was all over in a matter of seconds. I remember a crushing feeling as I dropped to my knees on the sidelines. I had played my heart out, our team had played their hearts out. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. I remember thinking it had been some kind of cruel joke. I would have rather been blown out by 50 than to have lose this way.
The Brookfield team stormed the field as the tears rained down my face. My teammates joined me in the corner of despair as we sat on the silent bus ride home.
Looking back on it, the game did define our season. It just wasn’t in the way that I thought it would. The old saying that you learn more from a loss than you do from a win is true. I get reminded of that game every now and then -- especially as the high school season begins to wind down.
Althought it was a painful loss, I always think back to that feeling, and it stays with me in anything that I do. It's the beauty of playing sports. The life lessons that come from a mere two hours can remain years later.
So whether it’s a fumble on the one-yard line in double overtime, a hard five set loss, or even a goal in double overtime in FCIACs -- remember the feeling.
It can be the path to a stronger lesson.