Black Friday has come and gone. Did you participate? If so, did you take the necessary steps to ensure your success? Black Friday shopping — really all shopping from now until Christmas — is similar to observing and even taking part in competitive athletics.

Nowadays, Black Friday actually starts on Thanksgiving, and people start waiting in line in advance to reap the benefits. I drove by the Best Buy in the Tri-Cities Wednesday afternoon, and I was shocked to see people camping outside in tents. That requires dedication rarely seen in our everyday lives.

It reminded me of my time in college at Washington State University. When I was a freshman, the men’s basketball team was one of the best in the country. It was one of the few times in the program’s history the Cougars have been ranked in the top 25, and they even rose into the top five during parts of that season.

When the Cougars hosted the fourth-ranked UCLA Bruins one Thursday evening it became one of the biggest games in the history of the school. I, much like any dedicated Black Friday shopper, knew what I had to do. I had to camp out in preparation. I left my dorm room late Wednesday night and got in line outside the arena. To my surprise, I wasn’t the only one with this idea. The group I?came with was the third campsite in line. We may or may not have skipped class on Thursday, but don’t tell my parents that. Within an hour of setting up camp, we were frozen and hungry.  We waited outside for almost 18 hours, and the Cougs didn’t even win the game. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat. While I don’t have the same feeling about camping in line for a new television or stereo system, somebody does, and I can understand and respect the dedication.

Actual Black Friday shopping requires much more than dedication, however. It takes a certain amount of mental and physical preparation and execution. The minute the deals start it becomes a mad dash to reach the corner of the store with those half-off televisions and video games. Did you condition yourself for the sprint? In order to ensure you get whatever it is you waited days in line for, you have to make sure you beat your fellow shoppers to the punch. With such few items on sale at the extreme low prices, if you’re not first you might be last when it comes to getting what you want.

It’s also important you did your research on the store and set a game plan the best way to attack. A football team watches film on an upcoming opponent so when the time comes to do battle players know what to do and where to go. Did you go to the store to see where the Blu Ray players were being kept? If you did, you were probably able to get your hands on one. If not, you may have been out because of a lack of preparation. Some of the best teams in sports fail to win the championship because they didn’t prepare and execute a game plan. I hope that wasn’t you. As my favorite quarterback Russell Wilson says, “The separation is in the preparation.”

Strength and balance also plays a critical role in any Black Friday shopper’s success. Much like an expert rebounder who uses his or her body to box out the opponent, a Black Friday shopper must shield the products he or she wants from the other shoppers. For some basketball players, rebounding is instinctual: They just get the ball better than anyone else. To be the best Black Friday shopper, you would have needed those same instincts.

Many instances of fights breaking out at Walmarts have been reported all across the country. Anyone who has played hockey at any point in their life probably held the advantage during any such physical encounter while shopping the last couple of days. Fighting is an intrinsic part of hockey, and, while I don’t condone fighting, especially over a $29 blender, it sounds like it could have contributed to some people’s success on Black Friday.

In all honesty, I think waiting in line countless hours to fight people to the death for decent deal on a new toaster oven is crazy. Then again, people probably say the same thing about me spending the night outdoors in three feet of snow just to get good seats to a basketball game.

To each his own. I can respect your way of life if you can respect mine. Just like I do with athletes and teams for whom I root,

I hope you were prepared. 

— Zach Beehler is the Sports Reporter for the Hermiston Herald. He can be reached at zbeehler@hermistonherald.com.

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