Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald wrote an outstanding piece on Jimmy Johnson yesterday and how he broke his football addiction.
So many of us - particularly when we were younger - would have been willing to sacrifice our lives for this game. Not literally, of course, but in the way that Johnson did. 16 hour days, 7 day weeks, 11 months of the year. It's a pursuit of passion which becomes an addiction. I'm not sure how often we consider the mindset of those who actually do.
The players often sacrifice their bodies The vast majority also sacrifice the pursuit of a meaningful livelihood considering the commitment to the game required from high school on for the chance to become one of the tiny minority who actually makes enough money from the sport to repay the time investment.
For the coaches there may be more security, but it is at the cost of life outside of football.
The court of public opinion has excoriated Tiki Barber and Robert Smith and Barry Sanders for walking away from the game at the peak of their careers. The same court has excoriated Brett Favre for being unable to walk away at all. Nick Saban and Larry Brown (in basketball) are criticized for their nomadic ways. Isiah Thomas for his ego driving him to his level of incompetence. Rod Marinelli for being unable to quit when it was obvious to all that he was inept in his position.
But for many of us, probably most who read this, given the same circumstances we would likely make the same decisions. Passion runs deep and beyond reason.
Finally, some quotes from the Le Batard (The Bastard?) article:
joy and fulfillment are not synonyms. Stan Van Gundy can tell you. The Orlando coach is in the NBA Finals now, at the top of his sport, but he does not really enjoy his job. Suffers it, really. He enjoys the rewards, obviously, but not the process. The constant prodding/confrontation/conflict with millionaire players who are at once his employees and his bosses fills his life with uncomfortable daily tension ... ''Pro coaching is . . .'' Johnson begins, and then he makes a sound like he's vomiting ...
He found perspective while weeping and staring into his mother's coffin. He realized that he had let a lot of life blur past in a whirl of appointments and responsibilities and superficial desires. That's the moment when his need for football-first died, too, at that funeral. He hadn't told enough people he loved them, or enjoyed his time around them without being preoccupied. Huizenga told Johnson that he could remain the head of the Dolphins and spend the entire offseason in the Keys. Get all the glory without the work, in other words. But Johnson said he couldn't do it that way if it had his name on it.
''After Mother passed, I thought there had to be something else out there,'' he says. ``I was happy in my accomplishments -- fulfilled, satisfied, proud, very proud -- but I didn't have true joy. I had a responsibility when I was coaching. And that was overriding everything. Family. Friends. Not just friends but even the idea of friendship. I didn't care whether I had friends or not. I was responsible if it didn't work. And when things would go wrong, I'd get upset to no end. I'd replay it in my mind all day and night. At the end, winning was just OK but a loss just crushed me. What kind of way to live is that?''