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?
So, why did the Patriots win? Was it: 1. Because Tom Brady is a great quarterback who led his team to victory? 2. Because Matt Ryan, this year’s MVP, was only able to lead the offense to three points in the second half? 3. Because the Patriots’ defense shut down the Falcons’ offense in the second half? 4. Because the Falcons’ defense was unable to stop the Patriots in the second half? While one can argue all are true, if you had to pick one reason, what would it be? What does the Code say about all of this? The Code talks about giving your best effort, about playing by the rules, and about putting team goals first… were any of these tenets critically important? Finally, what is the most important lesson that you learn from this game?
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the two greatest tennis players of this period of history, played an epic five set final in the Australian Open, with Federer winning his 18th Major Championship against his greatest nemesis.
What the world saw was not only two great champions making the supreme effort, but two gentlemen, athletes who know and respect – and like – each other. What the world did not see were two men with attitudes, trash talking, cursing, complaining about calls, etc. How is it that so many great players can play the game (not just tennis, all sports), without the need to strut, taunt, and celebrate at any occasion?
What does the Code say? “I will respect the dignity of every person and will not be abusive or dehumanizing of another either as an athlete or as a fan.” How well do you and your teammates live out this ethic? How do you respond when others taunt you or call you names?
We hope all coaches care more about their players as people than they do as athletic performers, and would like to be remembered by their players as Tim Tebow remembers his high school coach who died last week: “More than a coach, he was a mentor and a father figure. He changed my life and I will miss him.” Tim says he was “more than a coach.” The Code says, “I will display caring and honorable behavior …” We think the key word is “caring.” It applies not just to coaches, but to all of us. How can we communicate that we care about another? Would others say you are a caring person? Do you care more about others than you demonstrate? What are some steps you can take to reflect to others that you care about them? How would you like to be remembered?
Dabo Swinney is the head football coach of the National Champion Clemson Tigers. Prior to the championship game last week he said to his players, “Let the light that’s in you shine brighter than the light that’s on you.” What does that mean to you? Who is he talking to? Is the “you” each individual member of the team, or is it the team as a whole? We think his words could apply to each person individually and to the team as a whole. First, it means that while the national spotlight will be on us, it’s more important for us to control the light, to be the light, rather than to bask in the spotlight. So, we must focus on playing the game, on doing our part, and not be distracted by the spectacle around us. It means “let’s do our best!” Let’s be sure that our ability, unity, teamwork and determination are what is seen, rather than ourselves as the objects of entertainment. Whether on the field or off, whenever we focus the efforts we wish to make for something greater than our own glory, we will shine in ways more important than points on a scoreboard. When we strive to be the light, to make a difference, we’ll always be “winning more than the game.”
Clemson fans are celebrating Deshaun Watson’s stellar performance as the quarterback of the National Champion Tigers. The only thing that is as important in Deshaun’s opinion is the work that he does for Habitat for Humanity. As a child he grew up in public housing surrounded by crime and drugs, but when his mother Deann learned that through community service and hard work she could qualify for a Habitat House, she signed up. After giving over 300 hours of volunteer service she earned the privilege of a house. When the day came for the ceremony to receive the key, they were all surprised to find out that NFL great Warrick Dunn’s foundation had provided the funds for furniture and food to get them going. Deshaun and his siblings grew up in that Habitat house, giving him a new neighborhood and a better opportunity. He says, “that house became our home, and gave hope to us all.” Before his name was a household word he was already leading the team in volunteer days. Additionally, he told the Habitat leadership that he would like to speak to all the Habitat young people about taking advantage of the opportunities before them, and avoiding the bad choices that are all around: 300 people showed up the first time! Deshaun has become the face and a major advocate for Habitat in the Greenville/Clemson area of South Carolina. Winning More Than The Game! What can you learn from him? How/what difference can you make?