sitting in it

What do we do with the bad stuff?

How do we handle the hard?

Allow me to slightly alter a recent response by an influential leader, with a live mic in front of him at a very public moment in time…

You have to sit in it. You have to take it. Sometimes when you sit in it, and you’re honest with yourselves and you take it, some great things can happen.

Let’s briefly examine the included components…

You have to sit in it… meaning you have to acknowledge reality. 

You have to take it… meaning you have to let yourself feel it; it doesn’t do any good nor is it healthy or effective to numb the pain.

And you have to be honest… meaning don’t paint a different story, don’t shift the blame onto someone else, and don’t play any sort of victim. You have to deal with it.

If you do that, some great things can happen.

The other simultaneous truth is that sitting in past hurt doesn’t preclude experiencing present joy.

Hence, we come to one of my favorite topics. And while some may not share the zeal nor extent of the specific fandom, it’s indeed true that there are so many places where the realities of life and the nature of sports mirror one another. It’s as if God set this world up to give us all sorts of creative ways to learn about ourselves, in one arena after another.

The above altered quote comes from none other than Matt Painter, head men’s basketball coach at Purdue. Noting the lack of universally shared zeal, allow me to quickly provide a bit of a Cliff Notes context…

Purdue has been very good for very many years. In fact, in the last 44 years, they’ve won precisely 958 games, 11 regular season conference titles, 2 league tournaments and have had only 5 losing seasons. Suffice it to say, they’ve been consistently great. In the regular season only. They haven’t been to the Final Four since 1980. They’ve faced multiple uncanny, untimely injuries, season-ending heartbreaks and losses to less prominent, double digit seeds… with last year, for the Purdue fan, being the dreaded worst. 

Believed to be a serious championship contender, they did the unthinkable, in a circumstance that had occurred only one time prior in the tournament. As a top 1-seed, they lost to a bottom 16-seed, to a team that barely made the tournament. In addition to rare and unthinkable, it was painful and hard.

So Coach had to lead these impressionable 18-22 year old men to face their hard. To “sit in it,” if you will. To sit in adversity. It happens to each of us, all of us, in far more than in any so-called game. The wisest in life learn to navigate the hard in a healthy way.

What a lesson. And what a lesson that transcends any sport.

On Sunday the Purdue men’s basketball team won their 33rd game of the season and punched their ticket to the 2024 NCAA Final Four, the first time since 1980.

The players, former players, alumni and fans experienced almost unspeakable, tremendous glee. The Atlantic called it “a cathartic win 44 years in the making.” Indeed. Wide support from college coaches across the country has been pouring in, for both Purdue and Painter, believing the latter is a great coach and an even better person, a humble man who does things the “right way”… Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, former Villanova coach Jay Wright. Tweeted, too, by longtime CBS analyst Seth Davis after Sunday’s win: “Could not be happier for Boiler Nation. Some of the most passionate, loyal and long suffering fans in all of sports. Your long wait is OVER…”

Don’t let me act as if everyone’s rooting for Purdue. Fans have teams they like — teams they don’t. That’s ok.

But the bigger lesson remains true. If we sit in the hard and deal with it in an honest, healthy way, some great things can happen… no matter what arena we play in.