We’ve all seen or heard these statements. A politician, corporate executive, or educational administrator issues a written explanation or delivers a long-winded speech. These supposed highly educated individuals may use jargon most of us cannot comprehend and for good reason. This seemingly intentional ambiguousness takes up much time and space, yet in the end says little or nothing at all. In many instances they leave us asking the question: What the hell was just said? Often these statements will be used to save face or cover ones own ass in the midst of controversy.
Contrast this to a recent speech delivered by former NFL coach Herm Edwards. Edwards, who led the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, may be best known for this line in a post-game press conference: “Hello, you play to win the game.” Currently a studio analyst at ESPN, Edwards recently spoke to a group of players preparing for the Under Armour All-American High School Football Game.
The speech was short, only about a minute and a half in length. It was direct. Unless one’s a complete dolt, there was no head scratching following the remarks, wondering what was just said.
Edwards’ speech centered on the suspension of Texas Christian University’s star quarterback Trevone Boykin. Boykin, who was on most observers’ preseason favorites list to contend for the Heisman Trophy, was arrested days prior to the Horned Frogs’ appearance in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The former NFL coach used this example to drive home the consequences resulting from poor decisions. It should resonate loudly with all student-athletes and their coaches. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:
“We had an incident last night with a great college football player, Boykin. You guys watch him every Saturday. Great football player, from what I hear good kid. But he did something last night that brought shame to his university, his parents, and the people that play football. Don’t you be that guy. Don’t be that guy! Because I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen. They’re going to play the football game without him. They’re not cancelling the game. They’re going to play it without him. So don’t think you’re not replaceable, because you are. And when you do stuff like that, you shouldn’t play.
I told you in the first meeting, the game of football is bigger than any coach, any player. And when you do what he did last night, you shouldn’t play. It’s an embarrassment. Playing in a bowl game and he put his whole team in jeopardy. When you do stuff like that, you let your teammates down, you let your parents down, you let the university you are about to go to, you let them down. You don’t be that guy. Because when I’m sitting up there in Bristol, Connecticut and I see your name come across that wire, shame on me because I didn’t tell you.
That name on the back of your jersey belongs to your parents and you don’t screw it up. It don’t belong to you. And football belongs to the university and don’t you screw that up.”
And play the game they did. TCU, down 31-0 at the half, rallied to defeat Oregon in triple overtime. Without Trevone Boykin.
We all can think of instances throughout Maine high school athletics when players have made poor choices, jeopardizing a team’s chances for success. It happened when I was growing up and will continue to happen. The difference was, when I went to high school in the late 80’s there was no social media and no internet, for that matter. Believe it or not, we didn’t even have cell phones. Make bad decisions and you are more than likely to be found out in this day and age.
Off the top of my head, I can think of at least one high school sports team this year who had an otherwise successful season derailed due in part to the selfish acts of some individuals. Of course, in high school athletics their names are not printed in the newspaper but if you follow or attend the games it doesn’t take long to find out who they are. As in the TCU incident, they played and will continue to play the games with or without you.
When you go back to your school or are with your teammates 5, 10, or 20 years from now, how do you want to be remembered? I would hope people will remember you for how you performed on the field and for being a great teammate. Don’t be thought of as that player who put him or herself ahead of their team by making a poor decision. Unfortunately, when people look back and you were one of the players suspended, that’s what you’ll be remembered for.
With the postseason just a few weeks away for our winter athletes, I implore you to heed the warning of Herm Edwards. Don’t be that guy or girl!
To watch the video, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWoLh0f7u1k