Saturday, July 24, 2010

FINAL Pre-2010 U.S. Transplant Games Update

Well, hello everyone. I am a day late with my Transplant Games update for this week which happens to be my last Pre-Games update, and I apologize. The next update will be from The Games on July 30th which is just 6 days away. Registration and team photos will be that day and Jim and I will practice bowling that day in Madison in the facility or facilities we will compete in on August 1st and 3rd. At this point, we do not know if the bowling events we be in just one or two different facilities. If you look at the schedule of events, it's unclear. Personally, I'm hoping both the doubles and singles are at the same place. That way we only have to focus on learning the "lay of the land" in one. Plus, it might minimize the "home lanes" advantage of Team Wisconsin.

I don't have much new to report this week except for the fact that informs arrived this week (see pic). I really like them. The red, white, and blue colors along with the outline of the state and the circle with three stars (like in the state flag) really stand out. In my opinion, the only way it could be any better would be if the colors were Big Orange and White (ha, ha). But that's another story.

I practiced twice the week. On Monday, I went to Smyrna Lanes where I was able to rent a lane for an hour and pick certain spares to work on. I chose to focus on picking up the 7-pin, 10-pin, and the 3 / 10 split. However, my primary focus was on the 10-pin since he has been my nemesis for the last 2 1/2 years. The good news is I smoked him on 12 out of 15 attempts. Then, after working on those spares, I decided to bowl one game but only managed to score a 142. The tough part to accept was that after being pretty successful picking up the 10 pin and hour earlier, I left it standing both times I needed to pick it up during that game.

On Thursday, I practiced again for the last time before departure. The next time I throw a bowling ball will be in Madison. I bowled a 170, 169, 125, and 134. The first two games were exactly what I was hoping for, but the last two were not. The same issue, consistency, bit me again just as it has for the last 2 1/2 years. I'm hoping that demon stays home and doesn't make the trip.

Lastly, I want to pour out my heart. Some have wondered why I have worked so hard and focused intently on these games. Some have wondered and not understood why I was so disappointed after the 2008 Games. So, I feel like I should offer an explanation. The heart disease that led to my transplant was caused by muscular dystrophy (MD). I am blessed to still have my mobility but it is limited. When you consider the fact that as a 10-year old boy, I was told I would be in a wheelchair in my early 20s and I'm now 40+ and walking, it's obvious that God has truly looked out for me. I am blessed to be much healthier than most with the disease. I've always been a sports nut and always had a competitive spirit because of it. When I was a boy, I played pickup games of football, baseball, and basketball with my buddies. I wasn't the best athlete in the bunch by far. However, we had a lot of fun and it was great exercise. However, when it came to basketball, I was probably the best long range shooter in the bunch. My biggest problem was a lack of stamina and that was due to the disease. The thing that frustrated me is that I was not allowed to play on a team such as Little League, etc. The reasoning was that if I blew out a knee, or broke a leg, and got laid up for a while, it would could allow the MD to accelerate the muscle deterioration. I didn't like living in a bubble because of "what could happen" but I had no choice. That was the rules.

When I was first approached about competing in the 2008 Games, I hesitated at first mainly because I hadn't played any sports in years. I didn't know what I could do. Then, bowling was mentioned. I had bowled some in years past but never seriously so I figured I could give it a try. Plus, it dawned on me that it would be another way to honor the Lord and Kent because without them, I would not even be alive let alone competing in anything. So, Jim and I got together and starting practicing and the competitive juices started flowing. We even began to feel good about our chances and I got to thinking that this could be my opportunity to do something I hadn't done before - win a sporting event. We went to The Games, bowled, and came up just 13 pins short of bronze in our rookie games. We were very disappointed. Why ?? This is what is hard for so many to understand. Both of us bowled 20 pins below our average in the second game of the three game series. If we had just bowled our average and had those additional 40 pins, we would have won SILVER. If you're a football fan, you've heard football coaches say "we beat ourselves" more than once. That's the way Jim and I felt. We knew the other guys didn't bowl that much better than us. We just didn't do what we knew we were capable of. That stung, and it stung because of our competitive spirit. If the other guys had bowled consistent 170s and 180s and beat us, we could have accepted that because they would have simply been the better bowlers, but that's not what happened, and it was hard to accept. Plus, my donor family was there and I wanted to honor them and Kent's memory with a medal. However, the experience did accomplish something - it made us hungry and determined to not come up short again because we didn't do what we know we are capable of. So, we go into these games to try again.

I came to the conclusion this week that Jim and I have done all we can do at point. I also realized that maybe we have put too much emphasis on us "doing it." For that reason, I ask for you prayers at The Games. I ask that you pray specifically for the following :
  • Safety to, from, and while there.
  • Plenty of rest.
  • We will be able to focus on bowling.
  • We do the fundamentals - hit our marks and follow through.
  • The wisdom to make the proper adjustments during the competition.
  • Control our emotions - not get too excited when things go good or too down if they don't.
  • Have a short memory when we through a bad ball.
  • We only have to compete at one facility.
  • And most of all, we remember to praise and honor the Lord in everything we do there and to ask Him to help us on the lanes because we cannot be successful on our own.
I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not a great bowler and that there will be a number of much better ones competing at these games than me. However, I also know that Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things with Christ who strengthens me." Some would say "that ain't got nothing to do with bowling." To that I would say, "How do you know ?? It could." He could choose to help us bowl several perfect games while we are there. That would definitely be a miracle. Furthermore, as I said I know there will be better bowlers than me there, but I also know that none of them will be any hungrier to win those gold medals than us. I know that in my heart without a shadow of a doubt. That takes me back to the quote I've used in the past from Dale Earnhardt - "It ain't always the fastest car that wins the race. It's the one who refuses to lose" and I would add "the hungriest." Those words perfectly describe the spirit I am in right now. It's like I've been given another "second chance," and I want to take advantage of this opportunity.

Until Madison ........

P.S. For more information on the 2010 U.S. Transplant Games, visit their website HERE.
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