February 4, 2014

The Super Bowl and failure

I have been a Bronco fan since the 80s, and remember well the painful Super Bowl losses of the past. This last Sunday was one in that mode, though one I didn't suffer through long.  I know well enough that putting my mental health in the hands of a game I can't control is a losing bet.

But the aftermath has been a little unsettling, though rather predictable.  Today, SOF and I enjoyed a nice lunch at our favorite Mexican place while the muted TVs had panels discussing whether or not Peyton Manning was to blame for the game, or if his legacy was tainted by the game.

That game has little to do with the life.  Of course, I knew that, but was reminded of it when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl.  I had believed that was a big deal, but when it happened, the joy was fleeting at best.  We often forget that the joy is in the journey, not the end game.

But while this game has no bearing on how I live my life, I feel a personal connection to Peyton Manning.  I feel for someone who has been so good at his craft that he is often considered to be one of the best to ever play the game, yet constantly has to hear idiots on TV question whether or not he is really that good, all because of two or three games out of many.

I have never been that good at anything.  But I do understand a little of how it feels to be looked down for not measuring up to a certain standard.  I was a good teacher.  Some of my students would say even better than good.  Yet, for all the people who told me how good I was, no search committee thought me worthy of their faculty.  And I have watched people with (frankly) lesser minds go on to tenure and security.

I would never have been as good at history as Manning is at football.  No question.  I don't have the drive.  But anyone who doubts that man as an athlete and competitor reminds me of the people who sneer at phds who never make the big time.  There is something to be said for experience being a really bad teacher.  Those who find a profession easily can often mistake that ease for ability, and that translates very quickly into entitlement.  It is a simple step to then assume that those who haven't made it into the cult simply weren't good enough.  To complete the circle, those who watch football understand that Joe Montana didn't win those SBs because he was a superior athlete.  He was a very good QB with an excellent defense and offense.  The same could be said for Aikman or even Elway for his two victories.  Or, for that matter, Manning's own individual Super Bowl championship.  How odd that idiots on tv could compare him to Marino in this way and forget that season where the Colts ran the table.

But none of them did it on their own.  That is one of the redeeming parts of football.  It is team.  It means that those who win championships are fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.  Archie Manning, after all, never had that luxury.

So for those who have succeeded at life, be wary of assuming that success comes only because of your ability.  Or because God smiled on you.  Experience doesn't always teach us well.

No comments: