Mixed Emotions and Marquise Goodwin

I wouldn’t presume to tell another man how to feel. I will say that I hope we ate enough queso to get Marquise Goodwin’s Momma to London. She would tell him to be proud. He seems like a good kid, and good kids always listen to their Momma.

There was a time when the world was your neighborhood, and all the people in your life pretty much went to school with you. The measure by which you evaluated intelligence was the girl with the glasses in the third row – if you got the same number right on the math test as her, you were in good shape. The president was concerned enough about our physical fitness that he had someone count our sit-ups, but we all knew who the track star was. The best athlete in the world was the fastest kid in your class.

One of the consequences of growing up, and the world getting smaller, is that the local kid starts getting compared to the standards of continents and history. Sure, you’re pretty good, but you can’t run 100 meters in less than ten seconds. Yeah, you scored a basket, but Wilt Chamberlain once scored a hundred points in a game.

Parents don’t always help, and I’m as guilty as any. I am lucky enough to not only have a job, but to have one that gives me the flexibility to volunteer at my daughter’s elementary school from time to time. I happened to be there when the 4th and 5th grade was having Field Day. This mostly consisted of standing around hoping it wouldn’t rain and raking out the divots in the sand in front of the play ground equipment when the boys dropped the shot put. There was the running of 100 yards. There was the tossing a discus. There was standing around and talking about whether you’re parents were cool enough to let you go see Hunger Games even though you’re only ten (no, by the way). And there was the long jump.

This provided one of the few moments of excitement. A kid named Hadrood in my daughter’s class ran the length of a chalked off path and took off when he got to the orange cones. He sailed next to the slide and damn near made it to the swings. The kid jumped thirteen feet. It was a good eleven inches better than anybody else in the school. Even the 5th graders couldn’t match it. Everybody cheered; then the kids went to lunch.

I didn’t get to see my daughter again that day until we were making dinner. She excitedly told Mrs. Flipteach about the amazing jump. Thirteen feet. My wife is a good person, and she said something to the effect that thirteen feet is twice as far as Daddy is tall. Context is everything, and my daughter responded with the appropriate degree of excited awe. That’s when I blew it.

“You know,” I said, “there’s a guy who plays for the Longhorns who can jump 27 feet. His name is Marquise Goodwin, and when he isn’t playing wide receiver, in the spring he does the long jump for the track team. He can jump 27 feet.”

“TWENTY SEVEN FEET?!?” My daughter cries. “That’s just four feet less than an adult kangaroo!

If you’ve ever wondered what they’re teaching kids in school these days, apparently it’s that an adult kangaroo can jump thirty-one feet.

Anyway, I told her about Marquise Goodwin, and how he was going to try out for the Olympics. We went on the internet and looked up photos of him jumping into sand that was strangely free of monkey bars and teeter totters, and we talked about how cool it would be for a Longhorn to go to the Olympics. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had just stolen part of my daughter’s childhood, and her right to be amazed that a skinny kid in 4th grade could jump more than twice her Daddy.

Sometimes you don’t win. And sometimes you get beat. They say it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Clichés are clichés for a reason, and I know this one’s true, because there’s a big difference between not winning and getting beat. We didn’t win the 2010 BSC National Championship game. We got beat in the game against OU last year. Not winning is frustrating – and often full of that lonely word “if” - if Colt doesn’t get hurt… if we don’t turn the ball over that time (or that other time…). Not winning has its frustrations, but it also has a certain degree of pride – the defense did the Lord’s work, Shipley, 21-24. Yes, we lost, and yes it is frustrating but mostly because there were those moments that almost came together – where we came tantalizingly close to living up to, or even exceeding, our potential. Not winning isn’t very much fun, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have pride in knowing that you tried your best, and it just wasn’t your day.

Marquise Goodwin didn’t win the Olympic long jump competition today. I’m sure he’s frustrated. If he had hit the board on his first jump… if he had gotten to those last three jumps… if he had matched his personal best – which could have earned him a medal. I’m sure he’s frustrated, but I do hope his Momma’s there to tell him how proud he should be.

Marquise Goodwin is the best long jumper at my school. He represented my school at the NCAA outdoor track and field national championships, and when he won, I was proud he is a Longhorn. He represented my school at the Olympic qualifying competition, wearing burnt orange and earning a place on the Olympic team, and I was proud that he is a Longhorn. He represented my country yesterday, and jumped 8.11 meters to qualify for the final day of competition. I told my daughter, and we were both proud that he is a Longhorn. Marquise Goodwin placed 10th in the Olympic long jump competition. There are only nine other people (and a few kangaroos) in the world who jumped farther than him today. He’s probably frustrated; I am proud that he’s a Longhorn.

That frustration could do a lot for him. It could eat him up with what ifs and disappointment. Or it could drive him. It could drive him to train for the next competition. It could inspire him to work hard and improve his craft. And if it inspires him, when he breaks free during this year’s Red River Rivalry on a 63 yard play action pass down the seam, to jump into the endzone from the nine yard line – just because he can – then that’s alright with me. As long has he hands the ball to the ref like he’s been there before, and like he’ll be there again (preferably four or five times in that particular game).

Marquise Goodwin didn’t win the long jump competition, but he didn’t get beat. He’s only twenty-one – a kid. If he works hard, and lives up to his potential, he might get to try again in four years. If he does, he can jump into the sand, and no matter how far he goes, I know that he can pick himself up, dust himself off, and nod to the linesman like he’s been there before. Because he has. Marquise Goodwin is the best long jumper at my school, and I, for one, am proud of him.

Be excellent to each other.

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