On September 14, 2015, I received a phone call. “Ty, Coach McGuire here from Washington State. We watched your tape and would like to give you a full-ride scholarship.” The call ended soon after as the only words I could seem to find in my disoriented mind were, “Thank you, coach.”
I didn’t sit back down at the lunch table, and dozens of eyes followed me as I darted out the doors of Lubbock Cooper High. A bad case of ADD conjoined with the recent news left me no chance of sitting through Mrs. Lucero’s lecture over Shakespeare. It began to set in. The 10+ years of dedicating my life to football had finally paid off. And this was only the beginning.
I continued through my junior season with nearly each game bringing me a new scholarship offer. Coaches from across the country presented me with the opportunity to attend their universities for free. I was on a high. A high so satisfying that I never wanted to come down. My performance was everything. How I performed on Friday nights usually determined whether I’d receive a phone call the following week. The coaching I received during the week began to morph into rambles. I knew what I needed to do. How could a coach who never played past high school football know more than I did, right? I didn’t find out how wrong I was until we drove seven hours to El Paso, Texas, for the second round of the Texas High School Football Playoffs.
Spit flung across the few people dumb enough to sit front row during one of our head coach’s conventional pregame speeches. I wasn’t listening (of course), and I had already reached what I like to call the “realm.” This realm is essentially a point beyond return: the state of disregard to anything and everything until the final seconds on the scoreboard tick away. This frame of mind had grown stronger as the season went on. The disdain for my coaches developed into disdain for my whole team. But it didn’t matter. I had a game to win.
My cleats transferred from the concrete walkway to the spongy field turf. I was still in the butterfly stage, and that night, the butterflies were having their own football game in my stomach. I placed my heels on the 10-yard line and began surveying my competition. I always looked for the weak link in the chain of players that ran down on kick off. I would imagine how I wanted the play to go in my head before it happened, and it always ended with me in the end zone. The kicker began his approach and booted the ball my way, moving end over end until it hit my hands. The game was underway.
Our opponents were vicious. Every tackle occurred with ruthless force, and neither team could move the ball down the field. I began to take over. Ignoring any assignments, I rushed downhill every play to debilitate their aggressive run game. The war continued, each play discarding seconds off the clock. The fourth quarter was coming to an end, and we led 17-14. They had the ball on their own 30-yard line. The game was over. Unless a miracle occurred, our opponent’s deficit would stand, and we would advance to the third round. The ball snapped, and I followed the quarterback’s eyes as he stared down a receiver running a shallow route. I left my zone and pounced on the receiver hoping to intercept the final pass of the game. My eyes continued to follow his as he transferred them to another receiver, the receiver that had entered my assigned zone with nobody there to cover him. I watched as the ball spiraled through the air and hit its intended target. The clock had already reached zero as he trotted effortlessly into the end zone. Final score: 17-20.
I was removed from the “realm” by the stream of tears running down my face. I sat on the field and watched as all the seniors cried in the arms of their parents, knowing that this was the last time they’d get to play the game they had been playing all their lives. The feeling of guilt was inconceivable. How did I let greed get in the way of my team? Our season-ending loss was the result of months’ worth of self-regard that shrouded my commitment to the team. If I had only fulfilled my role, my brothers would have had another opportunity to play the game they love in the Texas High School Playoffs.
Conceit can often obscure one’s role. Recognizing the difference between conceit and pride in your own accomplishments is crucial in understanding your role amongst society. Being proud that I had taken a step forward in my journey through the game of football by receiving a scholarship was not being conceited; however, allowing that pride to obscure my role on the team was. There is a fine line between the two, and we can often misjudge this line.
Misjudging the line between conceit and self-regard is understandable in the light of the theory “survival of the fittest”. We have a natural instinct to strive and succeed. This instinct will develop our role, but it can also be disarrayed by conceit. Conceit was me leaving my assigned zone in hopes of reaping the benefits of a game-ending interception. I caused my team to lose by placing my personal interests over the team’s. Placing others’ best interests over our own will contribute in the progress of our society and will give us a better understanding of where our role fits in with everyone else’s.
Our society is a team whose progress depends on its players, with each player having an individual role. If conceit obscures this role, the team absorbs the backlash. Life may throw passes our way that will not align with our role. Understanding what is best for the team rather than oneself will help bring us satisfaction through this game of life.