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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In Sports, Enough is NEVER Enough...

There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game and that is first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay and I never want to finish second again. Vince Lombardi

As a boy growing up with parents who were strict disciplinarians, I can remember one of my father’s favorite phrases… “Steven, Enough is Enough!”  He usually stated this demand when his patience had been tested, and he was at his boiling point.  The next wrong move, would get me a swift slap from a man who stood about six foot two, with hands the size of frying pans.  (Back then it was called TOUGH LOVE!) 

I have come to realize that my dad’s phrase, while still applicable in the new millennium, doesn’t really apply to two areas – Business and Sports.  I am quite certain...strike that,    I’m positive, that in those two industries, my dad’s calling card statement does not apply – in fact, I’ll go one step further, those two industries live by a different code, and that code is… “ENOUGH Is NEVER ENOUGH!

How many times in business, have you developed a great idea that solved a lingering problem, or hit your monthly sales quota, or closed a monster deal, and after a few slaps on the back, a hearty handshake, and the obligatory email to the staff alerting them of your achievement,  your boss comes up to you and says… “So, what do you have for me next?”  

Heaven forbid, you should come up empty…you’ll start to hear things like... “You lost your hunger…The business has passed you by…You got complacent…” 

In today’s sports environment where the owners, fans, and media’s thirst for a championship are insatiable, the Vince Lombardi mantra of “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” has never been so dead on. 

I remember hearing about a starting pitcher, who consistently won 15 to 17 games a year, when asked why he never reached 20 wins in a season, he quickly replied, “once you win 20 games, they expect you to win 20 games every year.  Otherwise, you’re a bum.”  Talking about managing expectations.  But has the fear of rejection or retribution over not reaching a goal year after year, month after month, intimidated us to the point where we hold back?  Has it driven us to take risks that are more harmful to ourselves, and the organization, than the glory of the rewards?   Will it entice us to make decisions that will provide short team gain only to face long term regret?   Think about some of the managers and head coaches in professional sports who have taken their teams to the brink of ultimate success only to fall prey to the Enough is Never Enough philosophy that is prevalent in sports today, and shown a hasty exit from the team.  And how about those teams who have made it to the promised land…are they now expected to climb that mountain year after year, otherwise, they are a one hit wonder…A “Boy Band” that hit puberty too soon too fast. 

Can an organization truly build consistency, purpose, and a team atmosphere when management is so quick to pull the trigger?  Look at some of your greatest dynasties in sports, what is the one consistent presence on that team?  Most likely, it’s the leader.  The coach that set the tone, creates the standard, and builds the foundation for success where it counts – in the “field.”  Sure, upper management/general managers/ownership all play a role, but the majority of the real work is done out in the field.  Where every decision, every play, every mistake is watched and scrutinized over and over again.

Whether it’s because of bosses who need to justify their existence and leadership style, owners that want to show “something” for their investment, obsessed fans who somehow equate fulfillment in their life with how many championships their team has won, or the media whose sole purpose is bringing down those on top so they can build them up again, the patience for bringing home a “championship” is extremely short and not very sweet. 

Is this drive to achieve greatness more of a burden than a motivation? At a time when immediate satisfaction is at the top of everyone’s to do list, does our desire for perfection trump our need for patience…

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ignorance Is...Penn State University's Version

Reader Beware:  
This post is more a rant than a fan’s take on a sports story…
More a question of human behavior than describing an athletic accomplishment on the gridiron.

This is bigger than football, college athletics or the illustrious career of a football coach that has spanned over 60 years.  It’s bigger than a state university that on football game day becomes one of the largest cities in Pennsylvania, and the sports program that literally put the city, “Happy Valley” on the map. 

The sex abuse scandal that is shocking the entire college community that supports Penn State University is much bigger than sports.

This is about the young boys who were taken advantage of because, well they were young.  This is about an incredibly selfish act of one sick man who some how felt he could get away with the heinous crime, and didn’t care who got hurt, whose lives were destroyed or who was left picking up the pieces.  This is about incredibly poor judgment by individuals who put friendship, the fraternity of coaching or their own short sighted needs ahead of what is the right thing to do.  Plain and simple, this is not about college sports, the legacy of a football coach, or a university football program that turned out NFL caliber athletes (Penn State is known as Linebacker U.) Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken. 

What truly amazes me about this scandal is how one person, Jerry Sandusky (he doesn’t even deserve to be called a coach – the names he deserves are unprintable), can justify what he is doing, and where he is doing it, and not for one second seek help?  I mean, did Sandusky not know what he was doing was wrong? (He founded Second Mile, dedicated to helping children with absent or dysfunctional families.)  Did he not think about the consequences – obviously, not.  And this is probably a bigger question about mankind in general – a question we will never know the answer to, and certainly not one I am going to even attempt to tackle!  I will leave it to Dr. Phil. 

Finally, what does this say about the “Fraternity of Coaches” – the “what happens here stays here” mentality (So that’s where Sin City – Las Vegas, got that slogan!)  Can coaches, athletic directors, and anyone else who is a part of Penn State football program and vaguely had an idea about this crime be that loyal to Sandusky that they would turn away from a blatant and horrible crime against kids in order to live by some code of sports conduct?  To think, a week ago, before this case went public, Penn State University allowed this soon-to-be-charged-felon on campus and having use of the athletic facilities. This action goes way beyond Hear No Evil – See No Evil and Ignorance Is Bliss

In this case, Ignorance is Selfish, Irresponsible, and more importantly, Harmful.