Watching the Olympics this summer, I was taken back to my years of competitive swimming that stretched from mid grade school through high school. Since I had one of the better splits for the 50 meter freestyle, I often anchored the freestyle and medley relays.
Any swimmer or track athlete knows that the anchor man (or woman) is expected to bring home the victory, whether they are granted a lead or face a deficit as they leave the block. Unfortunately, most anchors are fast and almost all come to know both the "thrill of victory and the agony of defeat." Usually praised for the victory or blamed for the loss, the anchor assumes responsibility for the team's performance, regardless of his or her individual time.
In a way, we are all treated as anchor men (or women) in life. Except for those who have an intimate knowledge of our life, most acquaintances judge us to be successful or unsuccessful of our own accord. They are not familiar with those who supported us along the way or impaired our progress. They do not know if we were handed the means of success or had to fight for every opportunity. They do not consider how genetics, family dynamics and good or bad luck may have influenced our achievements (or lack thereof). Life, like a relay, unfolds over time and one must understand the components to judge the outcome.