Aaron Hernandez is a tragic figure. He committed suicide in prison last week while serving a life term for murder. From the time he was 17 years old, he had had a series of serious brushes with the law. The question that should be haunting all of his teammates, coaches and friends from his first days at the University of Florida, to his last days with the New England Patriots is: what could or should I have done? Why was this incredibly gifted athlete, so successful in football, not reached by someone who could lead him to live a good and positive life? Surely they knew of his violent tendencies, of the demons at work within him, and yet none of them was able to help him find the right path to life. What does the Code have to say about this? It says, “I will be a positive influence on the other relationships on the team.” It is always easier not to get involved; it is difficult to intervene when your efforts may meet anger or be rejected. But it is our responsibility to act, to do what we can to help those we know and care about. Is there a person in your school that needs a friend? Is there someone you know who is on the wrong road? Are there others you can get to join with you?
We have all seen the video of the passenger who was dragged off the United airlines flight, suffering a concussion and broken teeth in the process. And we all have our opinions about the mistakes that were made by United – beginning with the CEO who almost immediately said that the appropriate procedures were followed. Many simply wondered why United didn’t just keep offering more and more money until someone did volunteer to get off the plane. When something goes wrong, the natural tendency is to make excuses, to try to explain why it is not our fault that it happened, and about how we did everything we could to get the right result. And that’s what the United CEO tried to do. What does the Code say about this? The preamble to the Code says, “I will take responsibility and appropriate actions when I fail…” Today the CEO has finally taken full responsibility, after fumbling for days. The moment he saw the video, he should have immediately said something like, “What I have seen is very upsetting, I am terribly sorry that it happened, I want to learn how and why it happened, but in the meanwhile, I am responsible for United airlines and I want the public to know that this is very upsetting to us at United.” In saying something like this, the public would have seen a human response, the taking of responsibility, and appropriate actions would have followed in due course. Have you ever been in a situation where you tried to avoid responsibility? Have you ever realized that you were wrong about something and admitted it, and taken responsibility? How did you feel when that happened? What have you learned from this incident?
It was a great display of sportsmanship: Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia each doing everything possible to win the Masters golf tournament last Sunday, but at the same time each cheering on the other as they both made many great shots. In the end, when Justin realized that he was in all probability going to lose, he stood back so that Sergio could walk up the 18th fairway onto the green enjoying the full adulation and appreciation of the crowd. It was a great lesson for everyone: sports is at its best when we do our best, when we test ourselves against a worthy opponent, and when we know that there is no shame or dishonor in being beaten by a worthy opponent. That they could each actually root for the other while doing everything possible to defeat him was a lesson for us all.
Sports is always about “Winning More Than The Game!”
We did not see the game, but we understand it was close all the way, that a record number of fouls were called – 22 on each team – and that North Carolina won. The one thing that is certain in any game is you don’t know what will happen (even on those occasions when we are sure who will win it) – we don’t know who will play well, who will play poorly, whether we will have good luck, or bad luck, or whether the referees will make a few bad calls or not. That’s why we play the game, because there are an infinite number of variables, and we never know what will happen. I remember a five year old kid running up to his mother who was picking him up after a soccer game and saying excitedly, “we scored three goals!!” His mother later discretely asked another mother, “how many did the other team score?” “About 20!” was the answer. There is a lesson there for all of us to remember: we compete because more than winning or losing we want to have fun, we want to test our skills against a worthy opponent, and we want to make our best effort both individually and as a member of a team. Sports is always about “winning more than the game!”
We read that for the fifth year the UNC-Asheville baseball team had their heads shaved down on the field after their Wednesday night game. They did it in support of the non-profit organization Vs. Cancer, which raises funds for research in childhood cancer. The players had fun with it, generated awareness, and enjoyed raising money for a good cause. Another story told of a team that had a dance to raise money – and awareness – for research. What’s great about these stories is that the athletes and teams found a way to have fun, raise awareness, and raise money. What are some ideas that would be fun for your team, raise awareness for a cause that’s important to you, and raise some money as well? “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of community and world.”
Ideas for a tip? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We read that Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey has been found. To our surprise it is apparently worth about $500,000. That’s a lot of money. They also found the other one that had been stolen – by the same person. Naturally, the way our minds work at Athletes for a Better World, we think of all the good that one jersey could do – how many pairs of shoes, or balls, or jerseys that could buy for children with none, or how many other ways that jersey could make the world a better place. If you had that jersey what would you do with it? Would you sell it or keep it? Would you keep the money, or give it away? Who would you give it to? The Code says, “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.”
We all talk about winning and losing and “treating those imposters just the same.” But at the Oscars – everyone knows what happened: the wrong name was given as the winner of Best Picture. And in the midst of the confusion, Jordan Horowitz, one of the producers of “La La Land,” the film that had been erroneously announced as the winner, stepped forward, took the microphone to correct the mistake, and offered the Oscar statue to a producer of “Moonlight,” the rightful winner. “In a crisis, [producers] are levelheaded and decisive,” Horowitz later said, “and I try to operate from a place of doing what’s right on a moment-to-moment basis. There was a real breakdown of process, and setting it right was in my mind the only option.”
“All I know is there was a moment when I knew it needed to be corrected,” he added. “There was just so much confusion. I think people needed to see that piece of paper. There needed to be some real definitive clarity and truth in that moment.”
Backstage, after one of the most shocking moments in Oscar history, “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins told reporters that “the folks from ‘La La Land’ were so gracious. I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that. … I wasn’t speechless because we won. I was speechless because I – it was so gracious of them to do that.”
What would it be like in your sport to think you’d won the game, only to discover that actually you hadn’t? How could that happen? Can you imagine yourself as gracious as Jordan Horowitz?
The recent travel ban put in jeopardy the US Wrestling Team’s ability to travel to Iran for the World Championships. The US athletes, who had been training for years, were in limbo for several days. Finally, they were granted permission to travel. The surprise came when they took the mat. There was a tremendous outpouring of support from the Iranian fans, cheering for us as much as for their own team. The US team was stunned by this spontaneous response. Does the Code for Living say anything about this? What can we learn from it? The Code, of course, talks about respecting others, but more than anything we think this is another example of the way that sports can bridge differences and bring people together. One of the main principles and benefits of the Olympics is that we are regularly reminded that we share much more in our common humanity than often the politics of nations suggests. Can you, your team, and your fans demonstrate that same sportsmanship to all your opponents, especially your most bitter rivals? It’s all about “Winning More Than The Game!”
At the Grammy Awards on Sunday night Adele won every major award: Song of the Year, Record of Year and finally Album of the Year. However, she stunned everyone when she came to receive her final Grammy and said (looking at Beyoncé), “I can’t possibly accept this award. The Lemonade album was just so monumental, Beyoncé. It was so monumental and well thought-out and beautiful and soul-baring… we appreciate that. All of us artists here adore you. You are our light.” What does the Code say about this? The Code says, “I will display caring and honorable behavior off the field…” In all competition we want to win, but how we conduct ourselves whether we win or lose is a measure of our inner character. It is certainly true that Adele wanted to win, but in winning she had the honesty and the integrity to say the words above first, rather than celebrate and thank those who helped her achieve her success. When are the times when you have seen people most gracious in victory? Are there other occasions of victory or loss where the behavior has been less gracious?