Normally I am a Packer fan when it comes to who wins on Sunday afternoon, or Sunday night, or Monday night and now even Thursday night. Even though football has lost its appeal for me, losing its grip on my attention and my prior youthful obsession about watching every second of every televised game, I like to hear that the Packers have won and have attained another title for their storied history. Last Sunday’s Packers-Vikings game, however, holds a caveat for me. I heard that the Viking’s rookie kicker missed three field goals. The game ended in a tie, the unsatisfactory result often described as kissing your sister. It also ended the young man’s place on the Minnesota team and seemingly his career.
This is the kind of story that troubles me. I would even go so far as to say it grieves me. Anyone who has dedicated themselves in pursuit of a dream, only to find that circumstances have conspired against them to the point of total loss, touches me in a melancholy way despite the color of the jersey they wear. The death of dreams is an emotionally disastrous consequence for anyone and that is when my teacher/coach/minister persona kicks in [pun intended].
I imagine myself being in a position to counsel the defeated and fashion a consoling talk about the person’s future determined by their response to an extreme disappointment. And while this message has been inspired by the young man from Minnesota, it can be applied to any of us who have missed our own metaphorical field goals and must own up to the ignominy of an ego crunching hit that in football terms can appropriately be called a de-cleeter!
My first piece of sage wisdom is to Never give up. We tend to focus only on one another’s successes, but this distorts the rather common reality that most of us experience losses along the way to attaining our best achievements. We are prone to call these losses failures, but the only failure is in quitting. We are human and we make mistakes. Fortunately, we are also prone to loving a comeback story and we admire those who continue to strive for their goals despite setbacks of any size and multiplicity. It is an incredibly admirable trait in our human psyche that we can learn from every situation and press on in our endeavors. This type of mindset is the oft quoted optimistic mantra of keeping our eyes on the prize and never allowing the negative outcomes of our actions to dictate our next steps. We must accept the fact that mistakes can presage success as they are so common to our experiences. And therefore we need to repeat what should suffice as a cardinal rule of life; never give up.
My second point in this guide to recovery is Stay involved. I don’t know much about professional football, but I do know that there are other leagues, where one’s skills can continue to be applied. And for someone who has initially made the cut in such a vaunted league as the NFL, they may find a role to play in a seemingly less competitive arena, where the game is played by the same rules and requires the same level of dedication. And if that is not an immediate option, then I would suggest becoming a coach or teacher or some kind of instructor in your field of expertise, even if this role must be done on a volunteer basis. The point is to prevent a hole from appearing in your resume, while you continue to refine your own knowledge and abilities. It’s amazing what you can learn when helping others. And you never know what opportunities may come your way simply by staying prepared and available to respond to a new opening on another team’s roster. I attribute this bit of insight to a Frenchman, whose accomplishments were literally lifesaving, Louis Pasteur. His advice to us all is that “Chance favors the prepared man,” so stay involved.
Finally, and maybe even more important than points one and two, Keep it all in perspective. Pro football, like most of life’s professional ambitions, is a short-term reality. It is great to have a dream and to pursue a place in the pantheon of overachievers. But the transitory nature of its promise of fame and fortune can be equally applied to its inability for providing a lasting sense of fulfillment. There is life beyond the game and there are other Halls of Fame besides Canton. There are more important places to be, such as the loving caress of the hearts of family members. And you don’t have to go pro to earn the esteem of others for demonstrating one’s own integrity. In truth life is now and always will be about character. So pursue those short-term goals with the greatest of determination, but keep it part of a long-game strategy and aspire to find “the more” in life that doesn’t take place amidst the cheers of fans who will subsequently jeer you when you fail to please them. In life character is supreme, a point we can only appreciate if we keep it all in perspective.