The house of Sam Bradford has many windows, but only three or four doors.
That's how it looks for those of us who only get as close as watching from the street.
One door is loyalty. Another, competitiveness. A third, talent. And a fourth door is money.
Let's expend some dollars and sense behind Door No. 4.
"I've said this many times," Bradford said yesterday when speaking about his decision to have a shoulder surgery which, barring an unforeseen setback, will end his OU career and send him spiraling into the NFL a year late in the eyes of those who thought he should have taken the millions by now. "Some people think money is everything. But to me, money is not everything.
"To look at these guys (signaling teammates who had left practice to come stand behind Bradford) and look at the friendships that I've built and the experience that I've had here, not many people can say that. I wouldn't trade any of it for money."
His words are worth repeating.
"To me, money is not everything."
"I wouldn't trade any of it (my time at Oklahoma, including this injury-plagued season) for money."
He was speaking, of course, to his critics. He was standing up for his decision to bypass a multimillion-dollar payday in the NFL to return to Oklahoma for his junior season. His season now sidelined for good by injury, Bradford let it be known that he has a character trait of not being dependent on what others think nor on how they respond.
Beyond that character trait, I want to consider Sam Bradford and his view of money. I need to state up front that I've never met him and that even if I had, I wouldn't pretend to know him unless he shared some of his innermost self with me.
Therefore, I'm going to make three assumptions and draw three conclusions that are based on watching and listening to him no more closely than the average fan.
Assumption No. 1
Though Bradford is young, he isn't afraid to be an open follower of Jesus. When it comes to his public persona, he is unabashedly Christian. Consequently, my first assumption is that Bradford is led by three fundamental New Testament teachings about money.
One, that he is not to store up treasures here on earth. Said another way, there is no place for savings accounts for extravagant pursuits. (Jesus' disciples, with Jesus among them, managed a savings account—called a "purse"—for their needs. Any income that was left over after their basic needs was given to "the least of these.")
Two, that the power of money is constantly begging Bradford to put his heart resources into the earning of money. Said another way, he probably knows that the love of money can really get him distorted and placing his priorities in all sorts of wrong places.
Third, that money is made in order to be given away after it is used to meet his needs (not his wants and not his lust for luxury, if he has such lust).
Conclusion No. 1
Bradford is not enslaved to money or to an incessant accumulation of it. He has not invested his life in the god of money or, worse, the god of consumerism ("more, more, give me more because I can never have enough").
If Bradford ever has a garage of luxury cars, I'll be shocked. If he doesn't give his future money away to a hurting world, I'll be even more shocked.
Assumption No. 2
Bradford comes from at least a middle-class family (Mom, a school teacher, Dad, an insurance businessman). Moreover, he has a marketable talent that will pay him handsomely and an insurance policy that will also pay off if his talent gets injured.
My assumption, therefore, is that Bradford enjoys a financial peace of mind that millions of Americans and billions of human beings never experience.
Said another way, Bradford's money isn't running low, and it probably never will as long as he uses it wisely.
Conclusion No. 2
If Bradford becomes ultra-rich, he won't be lost. The dynamic of soaring wealth and shrinking spirit has been called “the American paradox.” We have big houses and broken homes. We have high incomes and low morale. We have increased rights and diminished civility. We excel at making a living but often fail at making a life.
Bradford has the imagination and humility to not trade his soul for money or the love of it.
Assumption No. 3
Bradford is a role model and very much knows it. Therefore, he knows that his decision to turn away from millions of dollars in favor of turning toward his team, his university, and his college experience is counter-cultural. It goes against the American ethic of going for the big payday and selling out for the almighty dollar.
Conclusion No. 3
Bradford decided, in his heart of hearts, that friendships, that being part of something larger than himself, and that finishing a job unfinished are three ways he's going to define a successful life for himself.
Amidst a culture of competitive money-making, Bradford penetrated that culture with a different ethic. He took a step back, looked at what was most important to him, and made a decision many called "crazy." He had the confidence to be a different kind of leader and will take that leadership, once he becomes affluent, into his use of money.
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