I am always amazed, surprise, often impressed by athletes. They are such a great microcosm of society at times; they can teach us things we didn’t know we had to learn; they can inspire us and frustrate us.
The best coaches and athletes always have perspective. I just finally watched the final episode of the UConn women’s basketball show on HBO. And while I’ve already written about how impressed I am with Geno Auriemma and his staff and players for things like grace under pressure, winning AND losing with dignity, and his leadership skills, I still gathered some new insights. The very last discussion in the show, when he’s back in his office two days after the loss in the Final Four, he says things like (and I’m not quoting but paraphrasing what I heard:
- You have to be able to put wins and losses into context of something bigger, so they aren’t so impactful to you.
- The longer you put off inevitable disappointment, the more it is going to hurt. I put grief in that category also.
- (Speaking about the length of the UConn winning streak) This team didn’t get the chance to start fresh; it was carrying something from someone else, and at some point the weight of it got to be too much. But I think they did a pretty damn good job of carrying that weight.
That is context. I’d be crawled up in a fetal position for a week after that loss. Not Geno. We can all learn from that.
So what does this have to do with injuries? The common thread is perspective. Athletes, coaches, GMs, fans – especially fans.
Drew Brees played on a team I rooted against, the Chargers. But I always admired him. I was disappointed when he got injured late in one year and was essentially let go by the Chargers; I presume their fear and some evidence led them to believe he was “done.” I am glad they were wrong, he was far from done. He has been a great quarterback, and more importantly in the “right time, right place” kismet that life sometimes throws at us, he became a symbol of revival for a whole city and a great ambassador for a community in need of a voice. Drew never let the injury define him. He was able to keep perspective and he fought for something bigger.
A week or so ago, Zach Werenski took a puck to the face, and it sure looked exactly like a guy who took a puck to the face. He was back playing in no time. He is seen as a hero. Social media went wild, in a good way. Last night, Blake Griffin injured his toe mid-game. Today it was announced he is out for the season. He is seen as weak and soft. Last night especially, social media went wild, in a bad way.
We fans should all have some perspective. I’m sure if Blake could play, he would. He is a professional and has pride. Unfortunately, though I am not a doctor and don’t understand the injury, I can only imagine that since it’s his foot and he needs to run up and down court, that could be a problem. Zach’s injury is to his face, which as long as it didn’t impact his eyesight is not an impediment to playing hockey. And I’m sure if the injury was impacting his vision or worse than it was (sure looked bad, I know I know) or threatening his career or life, then he wouldn’t be playing.
Jimmy Walker is a golfer that my company sponsors. He is a gentleman, loves to talk trash with his friends, and is a darn good golfer. Last year we were honored to help him celebrate his first major, when he won the PGA Championship. Soon after, he started to not feel well. Fatigued, not quite right, etc. He kept “going to work” but wasn’t performing like his old self. Finally he recently got it diagnosed as lyme disease. Like the other athletes I mentioned, and I believe almost every athlete at the professional ranks, his pride and drive is of the charts, and he kept going to work. How many of us would just take some days off? He takes his commitments seriously, ensuring he is thinking of the fans, his peers, his sponsors and the tour by not “calling in sick.”
I know there are many other stories that would be even more inspiring or legendary – these have just been on my mind. I hope you took some insights away from them, most importantly to keep things in a larger context and have perspective.