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Why the WVU game is a good thing for OSU

Suffering and failure can be a good thing for a good team.



Photo Attribution: USATSI

Photo Attribution: USATSI

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about suffering and failure.

Part of that has to do with the fact that I have eyeballs and I can use them and I watched that OSU-WVU game last weekend.

But another part of it has to do with the fact that some of my friends down here in Dallas found out that their unborn baby has a defect that causes her organs to grow outside her body. I profiled them for our church website (coming in November!) and it made me think a lot about how they’ll change as people because of the event.

I also just started Gladwell’s newest book, David and Goliath. I’m only a few chapters in but it’s really good — and so far at its core is the theme of suffering and shortcomings forcing people to create solutions to so many of life’s problems.

Obviously I’m not trying to compare either of these two things to a silly game like college football but I do think the concept applies.

I’m convinced that in sports, like in life, failure causes you to re-evaluate what you do and how you do it and if this is true then the logical conclusion, if you’re at all a competitive person, is that you become better because of it.[1. This is one reason Bama’s run has been so insane — they haven’t really lost and thus haven’t had a tangible reason to change anything and STILL somehow have become better and better. Related: Saban is a monstrosity.]

Think back to the 2011 game in College Station. That team, the great lot of it, had been through the fire. They’d been beaten by Nebraska and OU at home the year before — two losses that stuck in their craw for an entire year. There was so much “eff you” in that second half against A&M that I’m not totally sure would have otherwise been there.

Gundy noted that in his postgame comments to the Tulsa World that day.

We talked about adversity and how your true colors are going to show up when bad things happen. It takes a lot to come back against good teams on the road. And that doesn’t happen overnight.

The fun part about last week is that this week — and over the next few weeks — we get to see what this team has in the well. I think the coaches have a lot and I think Walsh, despite his physical limitations, has even more.

What will be interesting is to see what kinds of solutions they come up in response to their weaknesses being exposed.

Gladwell wrote a really cool piece in the New Yorker this summer (unrelated to his book, or the parts I’ve read so far) about failure and how it’s often the birthplace of creativity. Here’s a quote from an economist Gladwell was referencing in the piece.

Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming.

Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.

That last part — the part about how we misjudged how routine, simple, and undemanding a task will be — kinda sounds like where we were at as fans a week ago, doesn’t it?

That game last week in Morgantown was as insufferable as it gets for a sports fan but I think it will create within this team a sort of ingenuity that wouldn’t have been there before. Heck, maybe it was better to lose to WVU early so that you’re forced to change some things preceding OU and Baylor and the teams that have a legitimate shot at the Big 12 title.

I’m not saying if I could have it back I would still choose for OSU to lose to West Virginia, don’t confuse that. I’m saying that because they did maybe we’ll see a different side of them this weekend and beyond. Suffering can create resolve and out of failure creativity often flows.

Either way we’ll know a lot after the Kansas State game this weekend.

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