GAMEDAY Round 1 Game 3: Discipline
“It is possible that longing for something is better than actually having it. I’ve heard it said that satisfaction is the death of desire.” – Hank Moody, LA Kings fan
It’s April 2016, and the San Jose Sharks own a 2-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Kings.
How did we get here?
In my mind, it’s easy to understand why the Sharks have out-hustled the Kings for two wins thus far: we have two Cups, they have zero.
We are like the lion who has feasted on so much gazelle carcass that we are now bloated, lacking motivation, still digesting the banquets of 2012 and 2014. The Sharks, on the other hand, are like the ravenous, scraggly, bearded outcast lion from the plains to the north that nobody in the animal kingdom cares about.
The Sharks are hungry. They have massive internal motivation, whipped into a frenzy by the ghosts of their past failures and missed opportunities. They are a team possessed, feeling the weight of time as it passes and steadily closes their possible championship window. They cannot bank on being able to reanimate Marleau’s corpse more than a handful of times more. They see that Joe Thornton’s pre-game warmup has subtly shifted from soccer and smelling salts to Metamucil and calcium supplements.
In short, the Sharks’ herculean efforts so far are a function of their impending ego death, the realization that they may end their careers absent hockey’s most important source of validation (except for Martin Jones, of course). Yes, make no mistake, the Sharks are highly motivated.
But there is an important distinction between motivation and its more noble cousin, discipline. Motivation is fleeting. Motivation is emotionally driven and requires you to be in a certain mental state to reap its benefits. Discipline, on the other hand, is the ability to summon your willpower and make the right choices regardless of how you feel.
Discipline is trying to recover every loose puck, even if it looks like you can’t win the footrace.
Discipline is fighting hard in every board battle and refusing to come away without the puck.
Discipline is finishing checks and blocking shots, even when your whole body hurts and you’re tired and you have won two Cups in the last 4 years.
Discipline is why I believe the Los Angeles Kings can still win this series.
At any rate, if they are going to win, they will need to lean heavily on their discipline. After all, how much motivation can actually remain for the Kings’ core players? They are highly paid, and they have already proven their greatness in championships past. Chances are, the inner motivation of each Kings player pales in comparison to that of their rivals in teal.
Most of us know what it’s like to struggle toward a lofty goal that seems unattainable at first. But little by little, you make progress, you grow, and the hard lessons of life shape the pursuit of your goal in little ways that make you more efficient and wiser. Finally, one day you achieve the goal, and you’re left with one nagging question.
You see, Elysium is a myth. There is no promised land, where, after reaching the land of milk and honey, everything is perfect for time immemorial and satisfaction is your new permanent state of being. The life well lived invites struggle, because it is inevitable. Even after great achievement comes new periods of questioning, longing, and the requirement to re-prove yourself once again.
Never forget that the players on the Kings are not numbers, they are not little avatars or characters in a fictional narrative, and they are not pixels on a screen. They are real humans who have dealt with these big questions of personal struggle, and dug so deeply that they were able to reverse sweep this very same team only two years ago.
I #believe in this team, because they have shown me that they believe in themselves. They have shown their true colors time and again, and those colors are black, white, and the red of the blood they have spilled in pursuit of this goal. What was the last thing you bled for?
Do you have the discipline to reject cynicism and show the hockey world that you recognize the effort and sacrifice our players have made for themselves, for Los Angeles, and for you?
Why are you a Kings fan? So that you can proclaim their season already over and later point to how smart you were if they are in fact eliminated?
Or are you here because you know the magic that can happen, both for hockey players and us regular people, when you never give up? Because you know, that in the end, the struggle is what births the glory.
It’s the most magical time of the year. I hope you have the discipline to cast aside your cynicism and doubts, and make room in your Grinch heart for the possibility that it’s not over yet.
In fact, it’s never over.
…Except for the Ducks. They’re probably done-zo.