Grace and Style in sports
I am not a big sports fan, but I recently got hooked on the HBO series Hard Knocks. This past series the program followed the New York Jets through their pre-season not just on the field, but off, and behind the scenes.
Let’s do quick math. 32 teams in the NFL. 52 players per team (I think), and on each team you have a first string player (starter) and a backup or someone who can cover multiple positions. In another words, these guys are the best of the very best. Huge beasts to be sure, but I realized to make it to this level, you have to have a LOT of intelligence and you have to have people skills. At this level, just being muscled isn’t going to cut it.
Hard Knocks follows the team through pre-season and the program started with 70 some players and was eventually whittled down to 52. Each week a few more would be cut. It was Survivor on the Grid Iron.
What impressed me the most was when players were getting cut from the team. They showed grace and style. I would say that 99% of these guys carried themselves with the utmost dignity and style. (I don’t like to use the word “class” as it suggests that some people are better than others because of financial status and I know plenty wealthy individuals that are complete jerks and that isn’t “class”). I don’t consider getting cut from these teams like you and I getting let go. Getting cut at this level is a whole different ball of wax. This is getting cut from a dream job. This is getting cut from a ton of money for something players and have been dreaming about and practicing for since they were little kids. What impressed me is that even when getting cut from their boyhood dreams, these guys handled themselves with absolute grace. They thanked the coaches for the opportunity, explained the learned a ton in the process and were better people for the experience. They didn’t make a scene, they shook hands, turned in their play books and walked out with their heads held high. Unbelievable. I wish people in corporate America handled themselves this well. These were guys I wanted to work with. These were guys who had positive attitudes and were not going to let set back affect them. Simply put, grace and style in very difficult situations.
On a prior season, the program profiled Ochocinco from the Cincinnati Bengals. He didn’t really fit in my description above. But that is the point I am driving to. He stuck out, and although he is a great athletic player, he turned a few of folks off. In corporate America, where there is a much bigger pool of candidates to choose from (vs the NFL where there are literally only a handful of franchise players and demand outweighs supply). Corporate America can get another person with our particular skill sets pretty easily and don’t have to deal with a show boat.
I am not naive. I am sure they went home and had a shitty rest of the week, season, etc., but how they handled themselves in their professional environments was really impressive.
It made me realize that this is a big piece of what it takes to become successful at his level. You can’t just have muscles, quickness, etc., you need to have social skills and know how to handle yourself. Similar to the corporate world, you won’t be truly successful unless you have the entire package. The technical acumen associated with your job and the ability get along and handle stress are a very important aspect as well.
Being limited to “x” amount of players forces choices to be made and this and brings truly the best out for each position. Corporate America can hire as many people as it wants and just lays them off when needed. Being limited to “x” number of players forces the hiring of the best of the best. At this level, a lot of these players figured out how to conduct themselves with “Style”. If you want to survive the cutbacks in this economy, don’t just be the best at your job. Handle yourself with grace and style.
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.