There is a great controversy now because N. Korea has apparently hacked the Sony website, revealed personal emails, intimidated Sony and theaters into not releasing the movie The Interview. They did this because the film is disrespectful of the North Korean President. This is a major international problem – more than free speech, including ultimately national security. We are not going to discuss the political challenges. However, in this country we are used to making fun of political leaders – is that right? What are the limits of free speech? When does good-natured fun and joking become abusive bullying? We all say things to our friends about others that we would not want repeated, but what can we do to become more responsible individuals? What do you do when you hear inappropriate things said? What can you do?
While TCU was on their way to defeating Iowa State 55-3, they found themselves with a first and goal. They then “took a knee” for four plays turning the ball over on downs. At a time when a spot in the playoff was very much in play, Coach Patterson chose to demonstrate true sportsmanship, and respect for the other team. We have all played in one-sided games when we have won easily or been crushed. The temptation for the winning team is to want to continue to score when there is no longer any doubt about the outcome. What are some games like this that come to your mind that you have been in? How did it feel to win in those circumstances? How did it feel to lose in those circumstances? What does “Winning More Than The Game” mean to you in this case?
A few weeks ago Peyton Manning was upset by the fact that during the game the scoreboard operator showed his teammates celebrating, and also a shot of the opposing quarterback on the sideline, who was then booed by the fans. Peyton was outspoken after the game in saying that he thought that doing that was disrespectful of the player, and that the scenes of players dancing was inappropriate during the game, similar to taunting. The Code reminds us to be respectful, and to display honorable behavior. Peyton could have said nothing; instead, he took the opportunity to express his displeasure. When are some times when things have happened that you did not approve of? Did you speak up? Can Peyton serve as an example of courage for you?
Lauren Hill has a cancerous brain tumor, and she’s a member of the Division III Mount St. Joseph basketball team, practicing on the days she is able. A couple of weeks ago before a packed house she scored two lay-ups in a 66-55 win over Hiram, shooting with her left hand because her right hand is more affected by the disease.
Her courage in the face of her illness inspired others: a “Layup4Lauren” raised money for research on her type of cancer, Xavier University donated $58, 776 from tickets and merchandise, and over $324,000 total has been raised. And now, Lauren has her picture on the Wheaties box, because it’s the “Breakfast of Champions.”
The Code says “I will display caring and honorable behavior off the field and be a positive influence on my community and world.” Lauren has done that. And the Code says, “I will give of my time, skills and money as I am able for the betterment of my community and world.” Many others have done that in response to her example.
What are the challenges you see in your school or community? As we enter the holiday season, what difference can you make?
Kobe Bryant just set the record for the most missed shots in NBA history. It reminds us of Wayne Gretsky’s famous comment that “you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Or of Tommy Heinsohn’s observation a generation ago that he does not shoot all the time, but only “when he gets the ball.” Does the Code have anything to say about this? You could say that the Code reminds us to put “team goals ahead of personal goals” or that it says “I will give my best effort in practice and in competition.” But when do we take shots, and when do we pass? That is a part of the challenge in playing on any team, and every player needs to know when he or she should pass, and when they should shoot. This is an important conversation all coaches need to have with their team, so that everyone is in agreement. Not to take the open shot is as often a bigger failure than shooting and missing. A part of the mental part of the game is knowing when to shoot and when to pass. How clear are you on this in your mind? How is your team?
Derrick Coleman is the 233 pound fullback for the Seattle Seahawks. He is deaf, and you may have been one of 22 million to see his Duracell commercial on Youtube. On a flight to Seattle recently he saw a young Marine waiting for the rest room. After speaking to him, Derrick offered the soldier his seat in first class. The soldier refused until Derrick insisted, telling him that what he was doing was much more important and difficult than what he was doing. The Code says, “I will display caring and honorable behavior off the field and be a positive influence in my community and world.” Derrick said, “I always say that God blessed me this morning and I can do what I can do.” We all “can do” what we “can do” – but will we? How can Derrick inspire you to “do a good deed daily?”
It has been revealed that the University of North Carolina gave grades to over a thousand athletes over a twenty year period for courses they did not attend or do any significant work in. This is a great embarrassment to a University that has prided itself on its academics. What does the Code say about this? The Code says, “I will compete within the spirit and the letter or the rules of my sport.” What UNC has said to its athletes by this practice is, “If you can get around the academic requirements, it’s okay.” It’s not just the “letter of the law” but the “spirit” that is in play. If you are taught that it’s okay to get around the rules/requirements/expectations in one area of your life, why wouldn’t you do it in other areas as well? Ask your team to think about the rules or expectations they are tempted to try to get around. How does it reflect on them? How does it reflect on their team, their school, their family? Who is being cheated the most?
There are few, if any, football fans who are not familiar with JJ Watt – the greatest defensive player in football today who plays for the Houston Texans. We just learned about a YouTube entry, taped by a parent at a local practice (which explains the quality). It’s worth listening to because in only two minutes he tells the kids in his neighborhood: 1. Have fun, 2. Work hard – that’s what it takes, 3. Listen to your parents, teachers, etc., 3. Take the right road, not the wrong road, 4. Work hard, and 5. Dream. It’s hard to say more in two minutes!
If you can, play this video on your laptop for your team: http://youtu.be/3nFpDNEKDNY
How is this like the Code? There are many correct answers to that question, but JJ spent more time talking about effort than anything else. Why? Probably because what has made him the greatest player in the NFL is not talent, but effort. Ask the members of your team: what are your goals as a player and as a person? You may not be able to be an all-Pro player, but there is nothing stopping you from being an All –Pro person.
With all the bad news associated with football recently, we would do well to remember the many positive influences it has had on countless players and coaches through the years. The College Football Hall of Fame just opened in Atlanta, and while it celebrates the athletic achievements of many, it would not be possible to honor all those whose experience in the sport led them to be far better citizens than they would have with that influence. Share a few stories with your team about the football players whose stories you know who have made the greatest difference in the lives of others. Then, remind them of these words of Vince Lombardi – and maybe post them on your locker room wall:
“Character is the integration of habits of conduct superimposed on temperament. It is the will exercised on disposition, thought, emotion and action. Will is the character in action. … The character, rather than education, is man’s greatest need and man’s greatest safeguard, because character is higher than intellect. While it is true the difference between men is in energy, the strong will, in the settled purpose and in the invincible determination, the new leadership is in sacrifice, it is in self-denial, it is in love and loyalty, it is in fearlessness, it is in humility, and it is in the perfectly disciplined will. This gentlemen, is the distinction between great and little men.” (or women!)
Ray Rice and Jameis Winston have brought to the forefront a number of issues. The crisis facing American sports is not one of talent, but of character. (And this is true in more than sports.) The fundamental truths of right and wrong, or good and bad, are being re-written by many of the players, coaches, administrators, and yes, Roger Goodell. Truth or right are being usurped by money or value to the team. What is happening is what a famous historian called “a failure of nerve” by those in leadership. The failure of nerve is of those in authority to teach and demand good character from their players – the kind of character reflected in the Code for Living. When Bear Bryant heard that Joe Namath had had a few sips of beer at a local diner, he suspended him for the final game of the year, and for the Sugar Bowl which followed. Joe was not drunk, nor was he arrested – he had simply broken training rules. It begins with youth coaches, continues with high school coaches, college and professional – coaches and administrators. The failure is not in the stars, as Shakespeare said, but in ourselves. What are your standards? How are you doing? How can you do better?