Sports Column: The art of the “Bench Guy”

NICK MERSCH
SPORTS EDITOR

Welcome back, Troubadour sports fans. I’m ecstatic to be back in “The Ville” and writing again. It was a long break, and there’s been a fair amount of sports news since my last column. However, I want to write a piece about something that’s not really news, and it’s my column, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

For the past couple years, you’ve probably seen me on the bench, and every once in a while, on the court for the Franciscan University men’s basketball team. My sideline antics tend to get me noticed quite a bit. I love it when people come up to me and tell me that they love going to the basketball games to see what kind of crazy celebrations I’ll be doing from across the court. I’m always trying to get our guys going in whatever way I can, and it’s nice to be appreciated for that.

There is one question I usually get from my closer friends though: “Why do you keep playing if you still aren’t getting real playing time?” They most often ask me this because they know a bit more about how much of a time commitment basketball is and how much of a strain it’s putting on my slowly decaying body. I wish I could explain to them truly why I’m still playing, but I can’t quite do it justice in the confines of a conversation. I guess that’s why I wanted to write this column.

Is it about the hope of finally getting some rotation minutes? Of course, that’s definitely a part of it. Working on your game, getting stronger and putting your heart and soul into a goal that you want to achieve is fun and exciting. It can be hard to stick with it when you don’t see results or when an injury sets you back, but that’s all a part of it. Would it be amazing to get some playing time? Yeah, obviously, but seeing your own progress is a reward in itself.

Another part of my answer is just the relationships that I’ve made. Whether it’s with my coaches, my teammates or other people involved with the program, it’s all been worth it, and I still look forward to continuing those relationships and creating new ones. Many of my teammates are the people that I’m closest to and the guys that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. There’s something about going to battle every single day, experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, that really brings people together.

Also, I’m really convinced that we have more fun than any other Division III team in the nation. The vast majority of DIII basketball teams are comprised of guys who are trying to use the program as a stepping stone to something bigger, and it shows. The guys on our team are mostly here because they love this school and playing basketball happens to be something that they are able to do at the same time as going here. These factors add up to a bunch of guys who love basketball and each other’s company.

Something else I hear a lot from people is, “At a certain point, you have to worry about yourself.” Yes, this is true, but it’s also a bit twisted, and I’ll explain. The most winningest players in the world of team sports understand that it’s not about themselves. They make sacrifices in games to make sure the team can succeed. Now, if the guys that make plays in games are making sacrifices for the sake of the team, shouldn’t I do whatever I can to help the team as well?

Sometimes those sacrifices are glamorous, and sometimes they are not. It can be a fantastic diving play where a guy sacrifices his body to seal the game, or it can be subbing yourself out because you know that someone else is a better matchup for the other team in that moment.

The way I view the sacrifices I make are pretty non-glamorous. My sacrifices come during practice. By trying to play the way another team does in order to better prepare us for a game. Or by telling a younger guy who’s having a bad practice to keep his head up and to move on to the next play. I love doing that kind of stuff because, while I can contribute in very limited ways during the games, I can have a bigger impact in practice.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this column is that I play basketball for many reasons. I play for my teammates, I play for my coaches, I play for myself and I play for God. He gave me the talents that I have, and while it may not be enough at the moment to make me a starter, I can still help our team win, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing until I know I can’t.

1 comment for “Sports Column: The art of the “Bench Guy”

  1. Bill
    January 29, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Wow, great article…. you, Nick are a Go-Giver!

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