My second bite at the apple

August 24, 2012

I’m a huge fan of MMA (mixed martial arts).  One of my favorite clips is a very obscure one from a lesser-known/lesser-importance fight. It’s a slow-motion shot of one of the competitors following a referee stoppage by TKO.  The man is lying in a disorganized heap on the ground, looking back up toward the fighter who just chained together a flurry of strikes to drop him and win the fight.

This is one of my favorites not for the stature of the fighters involved or the importance attached to the bout itself.  What I like – love – is the raw, unfiltered, uninterpreted emotion written across the face of the loser.  In the best “picture is worth a thousand words” tradition, this brief segment of film speaks volumes to me about the human spirit.  About effort and reward.  But primarily about determination to improve and redeem oneself.

I have no way to know what the downed fighter was actually thinking – perhaps he was thinking nothing, mentally checked out from the near-knockout – but what I see in his face is incredibly raw determination.  His expression seems to be saying to me, “I wasn’t the better man.  But if the rules allowed me to get up right this second and re-engage you, even through the fog of the beating I just took, I would put you on your butt.”  It is to me an unverbalized, uninterpreted look of a man who is already, in that moment, totally committed to what it takes to redeem his sad situation.  But tied up within the ineffable mix of impressions his expression conveyed was also the hopeless realization that this was in fact NOT possible right now.  The rules of the sport dictate – fight’s over, fight’s over.  You will get a second chance, perhaps – but not this night.  No amount of raw determination coursing through you can change the fact that you are, for a time, out of the game, forced to endure the sentence of time before you can show the world what is already a reality in your heart.

I’ve liked that clip for years, but during my recent injury-caused absence, I had reason to relate to it further.  Many times during this stretch, I felt myself to be this man on the ground. The injury kept me totally off the bike, and for my own good I needed to stay free of any real physical exertion for a time so I could heal up.  Many times during this few weeks I found myself with a savage determination to redeem my sorry state and reach performances well beyond what I’d been able to show to this point.  I KNEW that “if I could only” get my shot, I would cash it.  But, like the fighter whose reality dictates that this moment offers no outlet for this emotion, I had to wait.

Now, I am healed up and back on the bike.  I have my second bite at the apple that I so passionately wanted during those weeks.  The opportunity that I was so urgently awaiting – my chance to “make it right” – has arrived.  And I feel incredibly motivated, incredibly energized, and very blessed to have such a chance.  Now that the choice is once again entirely with me – and not with father time – watch me work.

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