Medals, Respect, and Critics
Those who have competed know that you do so much to feel good for such a short period of time; then it’s on to the next race, chasing that feeling once again. To experience the pinnacle is brief; you spend most of your time toiling to get there. It’s the “labor time” that has enduring benefits. It’s here where you evolve from a colt to a horse.
I hope athletes learn to relish their experiences, friendships, growth, and remember the obstacles they overcome. I hope they value the depth of their efforts, and their private and behind the scene victories that will last longer than any trophy or medal. Life is said to be “what’s lived between the big moments.” The big moments are so few; what you do between them is who you are and what you’re made of. The economy, cancer, new born baby, interest rates, eye-site, health, disease, and those that truly love you, don’t care how many medals or trophies you have. What counts is how you impact people. You can’t take anything with you. Ask any coroner or funeral director. When one of the wealthiest men in history, John D Rockefeller, died, his accountant was asked “How much did John D. leave?” The accountants reply “all of it.”
I know many athletes who feel that they failed in athletics, although, they gave everything they had. Most athletes’ roles are behind the scenes, making those in front of them better. They are catalysts in any program’s success. The athletes who show up day after day, receiving limited recognition, never in the limelight, are worthy of respect. It’s very tough to come in day after day when you’re the hero, let alone a supporting role. However, there are no heroes without these significant cogs in the wheel, which are often introduced as “the rest of the team.” I take my hat off to these athletes. Every team and every sport is mostly comprised of these spokes in the wheel. They are the foundation of all successful teams and athletes.
You may think you need applause from the world, and who does not want to be acknowledged? But it fades and dies out. So if your reason for being in it is about “notoriety and awards” you will be disappointed. People may be looking in your direction today. However, they will be looking elsewhere tomorrow for the new hero, gadget, wrist-band, or hair-do.
Our sport of wrestling is much bigger than any trophy or medal. It’s about the will and inner drive to excel, over come, and succeed. It’s not a race against an opponent as much as it is with oneself. A real competitor wants to know how good they can be. I don’t care if you ever win. The respect goes to the athletes that continue to give 100% in victory or defeat. It’s really about what and who you become in the process that brings longevity and inner satisfaction. It’s difficult to detect while you’re going through it, but then a day comes when you realize that you’re not who you use to be; you’re improved, have grown, overcame, and progressed. You may be unrecognizable to others and even to yourself after years of pursuit. This is what our great sport can do for you.
Respect, success, and being a champion, in its highest form, is about getting the most out of you. If that comes with a blue ribbon or gold medal, great! If not, so be it. You will depart from competition, but it will always be with you. If you laid it all out there, than you have done what few do. Respect has more to do with how you live and what you give daily, than some medal or newspaper clipping; the medals will tarnish, but respect will endure. When you have respect, your rewards are everlasting.
Also, don’t worry about the critics; they are wannabes that never were. They are experts, even though they likely have never been in the trench. Yet, somehow they have defied all laws and know more than those who are actually in the trench. I suppose I should not be surprised because it’s much easier to be this type of person. I would say, coward, comes to mind when I think of those who, criticize and personal attack others who actually give great efforts. Those who are quick to condemn others usually have a resume that says little in the field they comment on. The real heroes are those that actually take the risk. It’s easy to be safe. It’s easy to hide and never risk success or defeat. Critics will always find something to satisfy their treasure hunt.
Detractor’s walk in accordance to the standard they have set for others. They spend all their time trying to get others right while not right themselves. They jab others with verbal spears but are blind to the very things they need. There is no connection to what they speak and how they live their life. This sort of attitude leaves those with the flattering idea that they’re somehow superior to others. Let me give it to you straight; every wrong that I see in you probably resides in me and every wrong you see in me probably resides in you. Stop having a measuring stick for other people; there are always a dozen or more facts that you know nothing about. Often, a cynic’s face is fixed in frozen smiles to project a façade of kindness and friendliness. You better hope God will not judge you the way you have judged others.
Tournaments bring thoughts of trophies, medals, and championships. And how quickly they fade and are exchanged for new ones. There has always been and will always be a new winner or flavor of the day. When I was a kid, I always looked at my heroes in the trophy case at my high school. I doubt there is any sign of them now. Like all school trophy cases, at some point, they run out of room. There is a need to make way for the current and that is fact of life. It lets us know how temporary we all are. The cycle is as follows: shine briefly, land on shelf or wall, stored in a box until enough time passes, than safely thrown out. Now this may sound cold, but its reality. So when we begin to think we’re a big deal, guess what? We’re not!
One year at the Junior Nationals in Fargo, USA wrestling had a wrestle off for the Olympic team. Charles Burton and Les Gutche’s were involved. Les was a 2x NCAA Champion, 1996 USA Olympic team and World Bronze medalist. However, he had a tough year with injuries and did not win the wrestle-off. I heard some kids talking and one of them asked the other what type of wrestling shoes he had on? The kid responded “Gutches” the other kid said “Gutches sucks!” Now this punk had no idea what he was talking about; most punks don’t. But how soon people forget and most never even knew. There has always been and will always be a new frontrunner or aroma of the day. To be good once, deserves acknowledgement. To be great like Les is exceptional. To be great again and again is nothing short of amazing. I will go a step further and mention those who never reached any of the above; they risked and put forth great effort. They may go un-noticed by most, but their efforts have its own rewards. The reward of being able to look in the mirror and know you “laid it all out” is a reward that’s undeniably rare.