Saturday, April 30, 2011

Perseverance and Sports Anime

This post comes from the last hour of the two and a half hours I spent thinking through my habits, lessons on perseverance, and sports anime analogies. I already posted the first part, and today, I’d like to share the rest. I find it interesting that, while I normally have no interest in sports at all, I’ve enjoyed enough sports anime to overflow with analogies when I’m doing some self-reflection.

April 27, 2011

Continued reflection

It’s 4:04 pm, and I want to keep at this until 5:00 if I can, or 4:30 at the earliest. After relating my experiences to Eyeshield 21, more sports anime analogies come to mind.

Not very long before watching Eyeshield 21, I watched an anime called Giant Killing, about a low-ranked professional soccer team called East Tokyo United (ETU). ETU’s players grew used to losing during the past couple years. Fans gave up hope, and coach after coach left the team. At the beginning of the anime, two members of ETU’s board search for a former player of theirs, Tatsumi Takeshi. Tatsumi is now a successful coach in Europe, and he agrees to return to coach his former team. One of many challenges he has to overcome is the team’s losing mindset. He knows that if they think of themselves as a team that always loses, they can’t win. He doesn’t berate them for losing a game. Instead, he tells them it’s time to change gears and concentrate on winning the next one. Some might think he acts too lightly considering the situation, but in truth, even his aggravating laidback nature before and after a hard match is carefully calculated to overcome ETU’s losing psyche – and then their losing streak. They learn to switch gears after losing a game. By the end of the series, players and fans alike think of ETU as a winning team. Tatsumi had helped ETU improve not only their skills, but their psyche. If he’d dwelled only on the skill side of coaching, could they have become a winning team? I doubt it. Just like in Eyeshield 21, these athletes had to discard their losing spirit if they wanted to win. Perseverance is a common theme, especially in the sports genre. It’s easy to brush past scenarios like the once I described and not think anything except, “pick a more original moral of the story.” But how often do we actually apply these themes to our own lives? I, for one, tend to brush over them and continue with my anime marathons. I save my thinking and self-application for reading my Bible or Lord of the Rings. I don’t want to turn every anime I watch into a learning experience, but neither do I wish to pass by a good opportunity for self-examination. For one thing, I spend too much time watching anime to let it be pure entertainment. For another, some of these themes are too important to ignore.

I want to learn to defeat my losing spirit, to shake off the failure and focus on winning the next one. Perseverance like Sena’s and ETU’s will come in handy throughout my life; I’d rather build a habit of persevering early on. If I condition myself to put forth effort and overcome discouragement, maybe it won’t be so easy to run away from responsibility.

Easier said than done.

I don’t want to rely only on myself for this, though. Sitting back and praying, “Lord, please make me a good worker” doesn’t sound quite right, either. Instead, I ask God to show me His support and to step in when my own effort isn’t enough. I think the more deeply I believe God loves me and supports me (and even likes me) no matter how often I mess up, the more free I’ll feel to put my failures behind me and push through the challenges in front of me.

In all the sports anime I’ve seen, the main athletes succeed in large part because of their teammates and/or coach. Sena trusted Himura to come up with the right plays for the game. He also had to trust Himura’s judgment in making him the running back ace in the first place. ETU succeeded because their coach knew how to train them and use their efforts and abilities to the best in a game. And in the anime I’m watching now, Big Windup!, the pitcher Mihashi Ren strikes out batter after batter because the catcher, Abe, judges the situation and gives him the right signs. Abe brings Mihashi’s abilities to their best. Without him, Mihashi wouldn’t have the confidence to succeed, let alone the judgment about what pitches to throw.

I want to learn to put forth the effort to overcome all challenges and discouragements set before me. However, I know I can’t do that alone. So I ask the Lord to come alongside my efforts. His support is more vital to me than that of the teammates and coaches in all the sports anime I watch. It’s God’s training regime, game plans, and encouragement that will make my efforts worthwhile. He’s the one I can rely on even when my efforts fail or I fail to put forth effort. He may let me stumble, and even fall, if that’s what’s best. But I know He’ll never forsake me, will never dislike me or feel contempt for me. With God, I can freely move on from my past failures and seize the new day.

Next question to ponder: do I trust God enough to have that confidence next time I feel discouraged?

*Picture from Giant Killing

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