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Zak of All Trades: All my 2014 resolutions are inspired by sports

January 3, 2014

This year, I promised myself that I wasn't going to make New Year's resolutions. I promise that I promised that.

Resolutions take resolve, and resolve to carry through a resolution too big or too lofty for me — which many of my own resolutions have proven to be — hasn't proven to be one of my strengths.

But, here's the thing. Sitting on my dad's recliner as the Steelers' season came to an end much later than we all expected with a missed field goal and a crazy overtime in a game across the country, I couldn't help but reflect. And reflection often leads to resolutions.

What I realized was that, given the year that has taken part in the sports world around me, I had some reflecting to do and some resolutions to make.

Having been a lifelong sports fan and having covered sports when I entered the journalism business a few years back, it is abundantly clear to me that many of the life lessons I've learned and many of the experiences I've had were directly tied to sports.

This year was no different, and so, when I thought back on the year, I decided that any resolutions I made should be sports-related. Here are a few such resolutions that I came up with.

1. I resolve to be more reflective.

As I said, this whole thought process began on the recliner after the San Diego Chargers pulled off their semi-miraculous run to the playoffs with a win over the Chiefs, cementing their sport in the postseason and eliminating my team for good.

But it wasn't the Chiefs I was blaming. It wasn't Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop — what an unfortunate name for a kicker. It wasn't even fate that I was blaming.

I knew that after this team I love started the season 0-4, with losses against some teams that it should have handled readily, that we, as Steelers fans, were in for a rough season.

I knew that if we got into the playoffs at all, it'd be by the skin of our teeth, and as it turns out, things went a whole lot better for us than they could have.

And, as is always the case, real life isn't so different from the sports world. This year, I lost some games that I should have won.

Whether it was from poor preparation or because my "opponent" figured out a game plan that took me down, I ended up on the losing side of some fights I should have handled easily.

A Week 4 loss to the Vikings in London and a Week 8 loss to the Raiders stick out to me as games that Pittsburgh should have won easily, and yet, at the end of the year, the team was left to look back on what could have been, just as all its fans were.

Reflection leads to positive change. The Steelers will reflect on what coaching moves — if any — they should make. Some mid-season reflection probably saved Todd Haley's job, but the reflection doesn't stop with the staff.

The roster has a lot of question marks going into next year, too.

And so, no matter what the issue to reflect on has become, this is a season for reflection from the team. And my hope is that 2014 is a time of reflection for me — one that inspires me to reflect before I resolve.

2. I resolve to never, never, never give up (hope).

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never give up."

This quote is one that I've turned to for motivation since college. For me, its beauty is in its simplicity. It inspires me for two reasons: it's inspiring by nature, and it reminds me that I'm not alone in feeling like giving up.

I also feel that it's important to never give up hope, and so, this year, I'm resolving to combine the two and never, never, never give up hope.

As I have been a Pirates fan since I was a little boy, the past 20 years or so lent themselves to many opportunities to give up on the team that I loved.

Poor management decisions and some flat-out bad luck when it came to personnel moves left the Pirates at the bottom of the heap each and every year after a 1992 playoff run.

Not only that, my favorite team became the laughingstock of the entire sports community with an unprecedented 20 straight seasons without a winning record.

And yet, I never gave up hope on my Pirates. Each year, I got just as excited for the preseason. Sure, I knew that our roster wasn't stacked, but each year, I just kept thinking, "Maybe this will be our year."

Well, 2013 was our year! And it was so enjoyable as a Pirates fan because I had never given up hope! And what a ride it was.

Now, I look forward to 2014 with a renewed sense of hope — not just in my beloved Pirates, but in life itself — as I resolve to never, never, never give up hope.

3. I resolve to remember that there's always next year.

After the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs officially, my dad, with a smile, said those five words we all hate to say as sports fans: "Well, there's always next year."

We said the same to each other after the Pirates lost in the playoffs this year and after the Penguins did the same.

"There's always next year" seems like a phrase of giving up, of surrender, but it has turned in to quite the opposite for us.

Sure, it comes with a taste of bittersweet sadness at the end of a season, but having been through 30-plus seasons with my teams
now, I've realized that "there's always next year" leads us to remember all the losing seasons we made it through and recovered from.

We made it through another season, and while things didn't go exactly the way we would have planned them, they went exactly as they did. We can't change that, but we can resolve to go out there and do it better next year.

For the Steelers, that means hitting the weight room. For the Pirates, that means figuring out what went differently and clinging to that.
And for us, that means rejoicing in the fact that we made it through another year, setting our minds on being better at whatever we're doing and remembering that "there's always next year."

This, my friends, is our "next year." May it be one filled with reflection, hope, remembrance and resolve. Happy New Year!

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit.

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