Focusing On The Fundamentals

I’ve been an avid sports fan for as long as I can remember. I mostly attribute that to my dad, who grew up in and around Boston and, as many Bostonians do, developed an early and lifelong “love affair” with all of Boston’s storied sports franchises: Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. In fact, I’m told he was quite an athlete himself, a high school pitching stand-out, who was being scouted by the hometown Red Sox until he “threw out his arm” horsing around with some of his high school buddies.  A love of sports was a passion my dad and I shared and the thing we talked about most. It was easier than talking about things that mattered. But, in the end, we loved sports for different reasons.  My dad loved the competitive aspects of the games and rooting for the home team, while I enjoyed the strategy and the stories behind the athletes.

I’ve also always been intrigued by the parallels that exist between sports and life. Some are fairly obvious, others not so much. The emphasis on the “fundamentals” in sports would certainly fall in the latter category.  Watch or play any sport long enough and sooner or later someone (likely a coach!) will start waxing eloquently about the fundamentals of some aspect of the game. There are fundamentals surrounding how to field a ground ball, shoot a jump shot, take a slap shot, tend goal and cover a wide receiver – to name just a few.  The game of golf, with which I am most familiar, also is overflowing with fundamentals (e.g., how to grip a club, proper footwork, posture, etc.). Regardless of the sport, however, fundamentals serve the same purpose: they are the foundation upon which an athlete’s ability to be successful is built.

This is not to say that it’s impossible to succeed in sports without strictly adhering to an established checklist of fundamentals. To the contrary, the record books are filled with athletes who have introduced their unique “variations on theme” where the fundamentals of their sport are concerned.  But, invariably, when you look at their technique under a microscope the essence of the most critical fundamentals are, almost without exception, still evident.  That’s why, whenever there is a breakdown on the field of play (in a team sport) or a prolonged drought in a hitter’s, pitcher’s or golfer’s performance, the thing you must often hear a coach or the athlete say is simple:  “We/I just need to get back to the fundamentals.”  They do and, more often than not, success follows shortly (or at least sometime) thereafter.

It seems to me that, when we, as human beings, “breakdown,” returning to the fundamentals would be an equally prudent approach to getting back on track, as opposed to rummaging around in the “debris” that surrounds or, more likely, engulfs us in our “brokenness” looking for “answers” as to how we got there.  What are those fundamentals?  I suppose that, to some extent, it depends on our faith perspective.  For those of faith, the fundamentals likely begin with the premise that we are created in the image and likeness of God.  Regardless of our belief system, however, all of us can agree that the most important of those fundamentals (and the ones we too often lose sight of for reasons too numerous to recount here) are simply, but clearly depicted in the photograph that accompanies this post, namely that:

(1) In the beginning, we were loved unconditionally, without having to do, say or “be” anything or anyone other than precisely the person who we are; (2) we were worthy of that unconditional love once so freely given – and we are still are; and (3) it is our moral obligation to find our way back to that love and to share it – first with ourselves and then with others.

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