Defense Wins Championships

AJW's TaproomI am the first to admit that I am an unabashed sports fan. I love everything about sports: playing, watching, debating, and dreaming. As such, I am also a lover of sports as a metaphor for life, and nowhere are those metaphors more rich than in the vernacular of sports clichés. Of all the great ones out there, my favorites are:

  • “That’s why they play the games.”
  • “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
  • “Play like a champion today.”
  • “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
  • “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.”

And, of all those little gems, it’s that last one I find so compelling.

You see, these days, it’s offense that gets all the attention and glory. We tend to celebrate the flashy front runners and the aggressive initiators. Those who go out hard and hang on for dear life. Let’s face it, modern society loves folks who go on the offensive. Home runs, slam dunks, game winning goals–those are the stuff of dreams.

Yet for me, the workhorses on the defensive end, those who endeavor to distract, disrupt, and destruct, are the true heroes. The defenders are patient, wily, and sophisticated. Defenders devote their energy to holding back, out thinking, and facing back fear. While the offenders work hard to create and exploit, the defenders exist in large part to just move on to the next play, and the next, and the next, until all the plays are over.

In running, of course, we don’t necessarily play offense and defense. Rather, most of the time we tend to toggle somewhere in between. But, in essence, I believe in the cliché, offense does win games and defense truly does win championships. And in winning those championships, the defensive ones find ways to endure that can sometimes be lost on the offensive ones.

This morning, I stepped off my doorstep into a typically hot, sultry Virginia day. As I began to run I felt a heaviness in my legs that was likely the result of the heat, the humidity, my recent indulgences, and the general malaise that tends to accompany my midsummer runs. When my GPS beeped at the one mile mark, it was clear that this run was lined up to be a total slog. In that moment, I said to myself, “Play defense.” I shortened my stride, took a couple of deep breaths, and took off my watch. I looked around at the kids playing in the park and the older couples walking leisurely through the forests. I ceased pushing and began to be pulled. Surprisingly, a mile or so later (although I couldn’t tell exactly as I’d turned off my watch), I began to feel a spring in my step. Through the sweat dripping down my face, I mustered up a smile. In my defensiveness, my slog had become a sluice.

In modern currency defensiveness is often seen as a negative. “Don’t be so defensive” is essentially code for “lighten up and live a little.” For me, I see it a bit differently. For me, defensiveness is liberating and lightening. Playing defense allows me to let go of the pressure and intensity of offense and just exist in the mode of reaction. Certainly, I can’t play defense all the time, but when I do I can do so all out. And, in the process, move closer to that championship that’s eluded me for so long.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Cigar City Florida CrackerThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida. They make a delicious heat defeating Belgian Style Wheat Ale called Florida Cracker that is just delicious. Brewed in the classic Belgian style, Cigar City has added a light hoppy finish to this beer that gives it just the right amount of punch.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • When have you switched from offensive to defensive on your runs? In your races?
  • How has it worked out?