My View of the Gregg Williams Situation
The RB was Giavanni Ruffin. The former East Carolina runner is an undrafted free agent from the 2011 draft class and he’s still working for an opportunity. Thanks to my friend Bryan Zukowski for sharing this video and its powerful message about work and desire.
I like the parable that Eric Thomas – the Hip-Hop Preacher narrating this video- tells of the young man seeking the knowledge and skill of his elder. However, the celebrity examples he provides of 50 Cent not sleeping – and Beyonce not eating – for days leave me wondering if our society takes this message too far. I’m not asking a question for which I think I have the answer.
I truly don’t know the answer.
I can relate to the video. Last week, I spent 58 hours without sleep so I could finish my online publication – a project that has occupied top priority in my life for months. There’s a mix of pride and fear that goes along with being that passionate about something. Like those celebrity examples that Thomas shared in the video, I’ve often worked to the point where I’ve stopped taking care of myself the way I should.
I’m not sharing this with you so you’ll feel sympathy and feel compelled to buy my book. Many of you can relate what it’s like to work hard for something – and sometimes past the point of reason.. I’m sharing this because although there’s a lot to like about this message, I think there’s a legitimate argument that nothing is worth gaining the world and losing one’s soul.
I understand that the Hip-Hop Preacher is using hyperbole to get his point across about the sacrifices involved with working passionately and diligently towards a goal. If there wasn’t hyperbole in Thomas’ message, there would be no athlete in this video. More than perhaps any other profession, athletes need a lot of sleep to recover sufficiently from the work they do. However, when I listen to this message there’s a ruthlessness to the determination, which I both appreciate and fear.
I appreciate the poetry of the message, but I fear those who embrace it as a literal message – especially athletes and coaches. A killer instinct should be a poetic term and not an accurate characteristic in a personality assessment. There’s a line between work and slavery, passion and obsession, and ambition and ruthless opportunism. Sometimes I think we all cross that line.
Football has a soul. It’s a physical, hard-nosed game – but it’s still a game. Gregg Williams – and probably much of the NFL – has long forgotten that fact. Listen to Williams talk to his players and it’s masterful manipulation to isolate players from reality to prepare them for 60 minutes of intensity and create a different scenario: Us against the world; no one understands what we do except for us: let’s do what we do – and what we do is hurt people.
It’s an unpleasant message, but it has a context. However, it’s not a context I want taught to children and we’re a society that sometimes emulates without the proper context. The NFL is ever-conscious about acquiring fans at a young age and this message – or method towards achieving success – is impossible to provide context the way it has been reported. Success shouldn’t always be about the result, but the willingness to fail risking for it.
There’s no better example of a player who embodies success by being willing to fail than Michael Jordan.
The reason I think we don’t understand greatness – and I’m talking in a hands-on sense, not an esoteric level – is because greatness is about accepting risk without limitations most people impose on themselves. Jordan’s decision to play baseball is perhaps a bigger indicator of his greatness than anything he did as a basketball player.
The Steelers Project by Lance Zierlein – a good piece on war room philosophy from a writer who had family connections to one of the best teams in the NFL.
The Fantasy Sideline Show – Good baseball and football talk with co-hosts from NFL.com and cbssports.com. Check them out.