One of the things I love most about college football is the team concept that is still evident. It is the continuation of a concept that has been promoted from Pee Wee to junior high to high school and on into college football. It’s not a concept that is easily embraced by the players. Coaches constantly have to reiterate the need for team play.
One reason is that we are born with an inherent selfishness that is hard to shake. My six children all have their different qualities, but one thing they share in common (to different degrees) is that, when they were infants, they demanded attention. A parent quickly learns to distinguish between the “I am hungry” cry, and the “I am perturbed that I am not being held!” cry.
That cry meant “hold me now!” and as soon as they were picked up they stopped their verbal protest. It was all about them. While that attitude can be expected from a child, if left unchecked it produces a quite boorish adult.
Have you ever met an adult who thinks the universe revolves around them? Have you ever seen an adult pitch a temper tantrum? Have you ever known an adult who demands that the spotlight be on them? Have you ever met an adult who walks around with a chip on their shoulder, thinking the world owes them something?
It’s just a child trapped in an adult’s body. The body grew up, but the child inside never did. They never learned that life isn’t about any one person.
Later, my children learned that there were other people in the world besides just them. Toys had to be shared, and they had to learn to blend with their siblings and others who were playing with them. How often I would admonish them to “be a team player.” It doesn’t happen overnight, but it is important that they learn the value of cooperation.
While the concept of team play (hopefully) begins in the home, it was, at least when I was growing up, reinforced on the ball fields of every level of competition. My high school coach would not allow end zone celebrations. “When you get in the end zone,” he would tell us, “act like you’ve been there before!”
He reminded us that there were 10 others guys who had busted their backside to get us there and we had better not act like we had done it alone—or we would be on the bench. That may seem archaic to many, but my coaches taught me a team concept that has stayed with me long after my days on the playing field have ended.
People who live for themselves end up cold and lonely when the winter of life sets in. They may live in a mansion and have staff to wait on their every need, but the coldness I speak of is of the heart.
There is something to be said for living for a cause that is bigger than oneself. People who never learn to harmonize with those around them are confined to listen to their own familiar voice playing like a broken record. Others nod and smile, but no one really listens.
Life isn’t a solo—it’s a symphony!
It is when we learn to become aware of those around us, and to reach out to them, that the lessons of the ball field are transferred into the arena of life. We learn that there is no “I” in team. We learn to weep when nothing bad has happened to us, but because it has happened to someone else. We learn to rejoice when we have not benefited, but because someone else has.
We learn to not insist on identicalness. That just as in football, there are different positions in life that are essential to the team as a whole. That it is more than just one player, no matter how talented, that brings success to a team. It is the whole lot—the starters down to the practice squad—that makes up the team.
College football is the final step before a player can cash his talent in at the bank. It may also be the last chance someone has to impact his philosophy of life. He will soon be on his own, and for those most talented, the world will be watching.
Those who never learn the team concept can be seen on Sunday ranting and raving at teammates and coaches—demanding the attention they think they deserve. Others will complain their life away out in the work-a-day world, oblivious to anyone but the man in the mirror.
They sing solo, but their song blesses no one.