Last Saturday, there was a lot of excitement at my house. We had reserved the afternoon so there would be no interruptions. My children, in different parts of the country, were all in battle mode.
Serbia was playing Turkey in the semi-finals at the world basketball championships in Istanbul.
If you are unfamiliar with the long and violent history of the Balkans, there is only one thing you need to know – Serbia (together with the surrounding neighborhood) was subjugated to the Turkish Ottoman empire for five hundred years. We still blame many of our woes on that painful history.
To beat the Turks in Istanbul (in basketball, of course) would be a sweet victory – it might almost avenge the bottle of Kosovo and release us from enslavement to that grievous memory.
The game started off well. The Serbian team consisting mostly of young players (ten under the age of twenty three) fought bravely and led throughout the first half by almost ten points. The audience was overwhelmingly Turkish, with a very small (but loud and brave) contingent of Serbs. The Turks looked worried. The Serbs were overjoyed.
Only once or twice did the Turkish team take the lead. It seemed possible that Serbs could win, but I was taking nothing for granted. I didn’t want to jinx them by being overly confident. So, I didn’t call Mike in Boston and gloat about how well things were going.
Well, at the very, very end of the game, the Turks took the lead. And during the last five seconds, they won by one point.
One point and that sweet sense of victory eluded us again.
The Turks in Istanbul celebrated with the unrestrained joy of tribal ecstasy. At my house, it was very quiet. The kids didn’t call. Jeff and I said nothing to each other. I turned my face to the wall, and I cried.
I have grown up in a society that idealizes pain and suffering. The path to true wisdom is strewn with thorns. But really, I am starting to wonder if there can be such a thing as too much of pain-infused wisdom.
To put it plainly, sometimes I just want my team to win.