Disappointment is relative. In my experience, it usually comes from not meeting expectations… but what or who actually determines those expectations? Opinions from so-called experts and the general public can be arbitrary and out of your control. Expectations you set for yourself are more controllable. Or are they?
In 2010 the Butler basketball team wowed the world with an improbable run to the NCAA championship game and came within 6 inches of winning it. They were not expected by the experts to win ANY of the games after the first round, yet they kept winning. The underdog role can be very powerful in sports, driving deep-down motivation to win, without the pressure brought on by a fear of losing.
This year was different. After a moderately successful regular season, Butler made the NCAA Tourney field again. They were not “expected” to go all the way, but we really weren’t so surprised when they won each game. After all, these are almost all the same guys who made that championship game last year, and they still have that whiz kid coach.
As I sit here and contemplate last night’s “ugliest championship game in the history of the sport,” I wonder why Butler suffered such a meltdown. The players probably tried to tell themselves it was just another game and that they would go out and play their hardest. I’m sure the coach tried to relax them with that same line of reasoning.
However, I bet that inside their minds they were secretly thinking “This is our year of redemption. We almost won last year, so now it is our turn to win. It SHOULD happen now because that would be poetic, cosmic justice.” I bet they were thinking about the fans and how upset they might be if the team did not fulfill its destiny. In other words, I bet they placed extremely high expectations on themselves.
The first half was competitive on defense but both teams had abysmal shooting. Butler’s poor shooting continued in the second half, and even the easy layups were not going in. I turned to my wife and said “If one team hits 3 baskets in a row, this game is over.” Sure enough, UConn delivered a little surge of 3 unanswered field goals. And that was it. The camera panned the Butler bench and I could see the defeat in their eyes as they stared up at the clock ticking down on them.
Were they just frustrated by having an off night? Or were they finally dealing with the disappointment of not living up to their unspoken expectations?
I’ve had my share of big disappointments in my life, mostly during times when I was considered to be a front-runner or probable winner. If you are a frequent “winner,” the external expectations from the fans will come your way whether you like it or not. And I don’t know which feels worse… letting yourself down, or letting others down.
Setting big goals and believing you can achieve them is important, but EXPECTING to achieve every one of them is a setup for a letdown isn’t it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below.