Unwilling to Quit
Cut me where you have to cut me,
I guarantee you if you don’t kill me,
You won’t stop me.
You got to take my life
Before you take my will.
What makes one man quit and another fight?
That is the dominating thought on my mind as I enter a gymnasium to watch a wrestling tournament.
I still haven’t come to terms with the answer the Universe keeps giving me to my question as what is the right thing for me to do for Jess, so, I keep asking it.
I am most at home inside a hot, stinky, crowded wrestling gym, it is where I do my best thinking.
It is the reason I am here today.
As I head up the bleachers, I step over sleeping wrestlers in between steps, I squeeze through overcrowded aisles of parents and siblings on my quest to the top row where I attempt to obtain the most secluded seat while having the wall as my backrest.
I find the perfect spot.
I am now able to overlook the whole gymnasium, to take it all in and think.
I know what I am looking for. I know what it is that I came to see.
If you watch closely, you can see it happen in every wrestling tournament.
A match where one wrestler fights and another decides to quit.
A match between two evenly matched wrestlers where one wrestler breaks the others will.
A match where one wrestler convinces his opponent that he will not win and his opponent believes him and he stops trying.
An experienced eye can pick up the exact moment when it happens.
It may happen after one wrestler gets shut down after a relentless offensive pursuit. Or gives up points on the line, or on a cheap tilt or allows his opponent to score with short time, or come out on the wrong side of an extraordinary scramble, or he lets a bad call affect his focus and his mental state.
Whenever and however it happens, the shift in the effort by one wrestler is dramatic.
A once tight score suddenly gets blown open.
A wrestler who was once defending all of his opponent’s shots at length, all of a sudden, can no longer defend any of the same shots he so valiantly defended just a minute earlier.
The crowd which formed to see the marquee matchup between two elite wrestlers disperses disappointed, as they came to see superior effort, not resignation.
Why is one wrestler now putting on a takedown clinic verse the other?
Did all of a sudden one wrestler lose all of his talents?
Did all of a sudden one wrestler lose all of his training?
Did all of a sudden one wrestler lose all of his experience?
No, in the blink of an eye, one wrestler lost all of his will.
The wrestler who quit let circumstances convince him that he can not win.
When a wrestler reaches this mental point, there may be time left on the clock, but the match is over.
There is no more try.
His try has been traded for resignation.
He is resigned to the fact that he will not win.
With try still left in the tank he has predetermined his fate.
He is being let up and taken down at will.
It gets so bad that his opponent is attempting to let him up once more, only for the resigned wrestler to stay down and not turn and face him because he knows what is coming.
He is resigned to stay down, to not attempt.
His goal has changed from winning the match to having the match end.
The one wrestler has convinced himself that resigning is less painful than trying.
In every tournament, one can also find a match where one wrestler, no matter the circumstances, is unwilling to quit.
It usually goes like this.
A wrestler is facing an opponent in which he is overmatched.
Few people are watching the match.
The overmatched wrestler gets thrown to his back.
He fights off of his back for the whole first period only to be immediately put to his back again in the 2nd period; in order to fight some more.
While on his back fighting for his survival, he hears the few people watching the match whisper, “It’s over.”
He continues to fight anyway.
Every time the overmatched wrestler’s shoulder blades get near the mat he somehow miraculously surges them, to stay alive, even though the likelihood of a comeback is remote.
That doesn’t matter to him.
What matters more to this over-matched wrestler is that he is forever unwilling to quit.
He is unwilling to surrender his will.
He is unwilling to listen to the wrong voices instructing him to take the path of least resistance, to resign and relax for just a second.
Which, would end the match.
Instead, he continues to fight through the pain.
He is unwilling to be defeated due to a lack of try.
After spending two periods on his back the over-matched wrestler faces a third period.
He has choice between top, bottom and neutral.
He evaluates his options and realizes there is not one option where he has a favorable outcome.
The realization doesn’t faze him.
He chooses the top position.
He is immediately reversed and put on his back.
He has just fought off his back for the last four minutes and now faces two more grueling minutes doing the same.
The rational thought would say it would be easier to just ease up for a fraction of a second and allow his shoulder blades to graze the mat ever so slightly, for a fall.
It would all be over then.
No one would blame him; he was over-matched.
But there is something inside the over-matched wrestler that is unwilling to listen to rationale.
He is unwilling to listen to the voice which will lead him to defeat.
He survives the first minute of the third period, his fifth minute on his back.
It took every ounce of energy he had, just to survive.
Just to face more pain.
His chance of winning the match has gone from improbable to near impossible.
It would be very easy for him to end it all; just collapse his shoulders, and the match would be over.
But something inside of him just can’t.
Something inside is unwilling.
From his back, he glances up and sees two things; a crowd is forming around his mat and the clock says that he has another minute left to fight.
He is out of energy.
He is beyond believing he will win the match.
He feels his shoulders nearing the mat; they are as close to the mat as they have been all match.
He is determined to keep his shoulders above the mat.
Somehow, he reaches down and taps into a reservoir of strength he never knew existed.
He is unwilling to allow his hard work to go for naught.
The ever-increasing crowd takes notice of his effort and starts to root for him not to get pinned.
:10, :09, :08 they start counting down the seconds left in the match.
:03, :02, :01 :00 – a loud ovation erupts from the crowd.
The wrestler who has spent the last six minutes on his back untangles himself from his opponent and heads back to the circle.
The crowd is on their feet applauding.
Not for the victor, but for him.
For his effort.
For his refusal to allow circumstances to dictate his effort.
They realize they have just witnessed the essence of sport.
The referee raises his opponent’s hand.
The winner of the match storms off the mat as if he has lost the match – disgruntled because he didn’t get the pin.
The over-matched wrestler who fought for six minutes off of his back is embraced by his teammates and coaches.
They swarm him as if he had won the match.
Because he has.
His will made him fight.
His will made him survive.
His will made him unwilling.
Unwilling to give in.
Unwilling to take the path of least resistance.
Unwilling to be broken.
Unwilling to quit.
What makes one wrestler fight and another wrestler give up?
Is it talent?
It is not talent; it is something much more reliable than talent.
Is it training?
It is not training; it is something much more valuable than training.
Is it experience?
It is not experience; it is something much more invisible than experience.
It is will.
And it can’t be taught, only discovered.
When one is willing to fight, fear is destroyed.
As fear is afraid of a fight.
Wrestling is life.
There are times in life where circumstances will be presented to you and you will have a decision to make.
Will you predetermine that you are unable to win, and become resigned not to try?
To live a broken life?
Or will you be unwilling to quit – No matter what.
Which wrestler do you want to be?
Do you want to be the wrestler who still had try left in his tank, but quit or the overmatched wrestler who used up all his try, and didn’t?
I ask myself what type of person do I want to be?
I got my answer.
I was once told that the type of wrestler I was will be the kind of man I will be.
I was never pinned as a wrestler and I’m surely not going to let life pin me now.
I got what I came here to see.
A synchronistic event has once again provided me answers to an internal dilemma.
Like I said earlier, I do my best thinking in a wrestling gym.
I get up from my seat, I step over a few sleeping wrestlers, I squeeze through the crowded aisle and I leave the gym with my shoulders ever so slightly higher than they were before I arrived due to my renewed unwillingness to quit.
No matter what the circumstances in my life are.
Once again, this great sport exponentially has given back to me more than I ever gave to it.