Peter [a basketball coach], “The seasons I liked best you started out maybe 0 and 10. The papers wrote you off. The other teams did too. That’s when you psych yourself up… come back to finish strong.”
He looks at Henry [a cop]. “You must know an equivalent feeling in police work. You think you’re beaten, you get up off the mat.”
This is a reference to boxers, or maybe wrestlers: When you're down on the mat (the padded floor), and you think you're beaten (you've lost and it's over), that's when you should get up and prove otherwise.
The coach explains it: You've lost 10 games and won none, the papers make fun of you, the other teams think you're nothing. That's when you come back.
The idea is that when everyone else thinks you're a loser, you have a chance to suddenly come back and look good because they underestimate you (they don't take you seriously).
There are two movies I can think of that show this. One is the Karate Kid. The other is Rocky. In both movies, the guy that everyone thinks is not worth worrying about ends up winning.
When things go wrong and you feel like you have been beaten by whatever events had taken place. But you don't allow it to keep you down and up get back up.
It is often used to encourage people that they should not stay down but get back up and continue in whatever it is they are doing. Never give up.
YOu must find it within yourself not to quit.
I will get off the mat and fight on
To use another phrase to explain: "try, try, try again." So even if you are knocked down (in boxing) or not making any progress on a criminal case (police work), you regroup and pick yourself back up and fight more until you give it all you've got to try to win (the match or solve the case). So, even if it may look like you are beaten you may not be. You've got to get up and fight and not give up too easily. That's what's known as the human spirit.
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