Monday, April 11, 2016

The Man in the Arena

You know what is the greatest thing about sports?  There are both winners and losers.  And we can be proud of both of them.  We had another reminder of the cruelty of competition on Sunday as defending Masters champion Jordan Spieth came to the 12th hole in the famed "Amen Corner" at Augusta National Golf Club with a two shot lead.  For those who missed it (and under what rock do you live if you did?) Spieth put not one ball into Rae's Creek, but two--dropping out of the lead instantly--and digging such a deep deficit that he could not recover in his remaining holes.  It was a stunning turnaround for a young golfer that has really known only success in the past year and a half.

Of course, social media exploded--especially after the second water ball--with everyone's favorite term for someone who fails under pressure: "Choke".  Things got even uglier after Spieth sat through endless questions from the media after the round about how he could blow a 5-shot lead in just three holes--as some people started to point to his handling of a crushing defeat better than Cam Newton handled his Super Bowl loss earlier this year.  You can guess the tone that "discussion" took on quickly.

It's situations like this that I am reminded of Teddy Roosevelt's famous speech "The Man in the Arena":

I hope that Jordan Spieth can take some solace in those words (and in the $1.08 million dollars he got for still finishing second).  I hope that all of the young people for whom Spieth has become a sports hero realize that you need to fail (and sometimes fail spectacularly) to improve as both an athlete and as a person.  And I hope that Jordan is able to bounce back from this (I'd still make him a favorite for the US Open at Oakmont--just because it features the nastiest greens in the world) and show parents as well that you cannot be afraid to let your kids taste bitter defeat--so that they also learn to appreciate success.

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