“In Doubtful Matters, Boldness is Everything”–Pubillius Syrus
Good morning, I hope you are doing well. Today is a good day. It’s a HUGE day. “Why?” You might ask. Any day that I don’t spend trying to negotiating a one sided deal with St. Peter that could possibly cost him his job is a pretty good one. Also, my high school football coach, Ken Netherland, is going to be inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame. Coach is no longer with us, but his wife Sharon, aka Mrs. Coach, is going to accept the induction. I have never met anyone quite like Coach. From the time I was about 12 years old I saw him as larger than life. I would watch the varsity football team come onto the field, and I swore that they were all 7′ tall and each weighed 300lbs. I was in total envy. I couldn’t believe how a man could command so much respect that these big monsters would do whatever, whenever this man asked. Coach Netherland was exactly who he was and believed exactly what he believed, seemingly every day of his life. If there was ever a role model for a person who stayed the course and refused to get caught up in the hoopla of politics or others’ opinions, it was Coach. I tell you what else I admired about Coach, he was NOT afraid to fail. He did what he thought to be best, and he stuck with these principles day in and day out, often in the face of overwhelming adversity. The man would not be pushed around. He did not need to raise his voice, and a big vocabulary would not be required. One look from Coach Netherland on any given subject, and you knew exactly where he stood….always.
Coach Netherland spent most of his days herding cats. Fat, dumbassed cats, with short attention spans, and big egos. The task ahead of him each and every day was formidable and there was no room for wavering. I think about how Coach Netherland feeds into my daily life and how much I want to emulate him. First and foremost, I think about his willingness to fail at the risk of success. The guy did what he did for 50 friggin years! (368-131-3) was his record. 131 times he walked out in front of thousands of people and failed, right there in front of God and everybody. I love it! Hell, he went into entire seasons with the knowledge that he would be lucky to win a game or two…. but he did it anyway. Did you hear me? BUT HE DID IT ANYWAY. It was part of the gig. It was part of life. When he wins, no problems, he is a God. When he loses, he is a bum, facing 100 parents who could all do a better job. “THROW THE DAMN BALL” was the rallying cry of the fans who didn’t know 58 Blast from a Butterfinger Blast, as they were feeding popcorn in their pie holes and trying to figure out why the guard lined up so far back on defense. No sir, not gonna change that man’s mind. He knew the risks, and he knew the rewards. He believed what he thought was best, and he stayed that course, day in and day out, sometimes with entire years going by, and all the fingers pointed squarely at him. How did he handle these years? He handled them the same way he did the State Championship seasons. He handled them with grace and dignity. Humility was his greatest asset. I watched him being interviewed on TV after he had become the winningest coach in Tennessee high school history. The reporter asked, “what does that mean?”. Coach’s response was this, “it means I’m old, and I’ve coached a lot of games”. Humility is an attribute that you don’t see everyday, but I sure like it when I do see it.
One of my favorite stories of standing behind one’s beliefs, is also one of my favorite Coach Netherland stories. As its told, when Coach was being shopped at St. George’s there was a meeting with some of the staff, alumni, and boosters. It was clear that they wanted Coach Netherland’s leadership and experience, but they also wanted him to waiver from his smashmouth, 3 yards and a cloud of dust, bust it up the gut offense, and implement a more flashy passing style of offense. After listening to various high-uppers give their pitch regarding what they wanted to see on the football field, it was Coach’s turn. He confidently approached the whiteboard and drew a rectangle to resemble a foot field with two end zones. He then drew a horizontal line straight down the middle, and said, “the last time I checked, the shortest distance between end zone to end zone is straight down the middle, and that is how I plan to get there. When you throw the football there are only 3 possible outcomes…and 2 of them ain’t good. I don’t like those odds. We will run the ball.” It would only take a few seasons before Coach had won a State Championship with those guys.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I am fortunate to have seen a man who lived his life on his terms. Every time I think about WAITING to do something for fear of failure, or whatever ridiculous excuse I use to avoid trying, I think about Coach. Whenever I think, “I’m gonna sign up for that race NEXT year, when I’m more prepared” or “I’m gonna compete in the Open next year, when I’m in better shape”, I think about how Coach didn’t have that option. In fifty years, he didn’t have the option of saying, “my guys suck this year, so we are not gonna participate” or “we will just play the crappy teams that we choose, because we know we can handle them”. He was able to find success in the failures, the beauty in the seasons of losses. He was able to embrace all the hostility and doubt, and use that to make him all the stronger, and remained humble throughout. The success was just too important that he simply had to fail in order to achieve it. I would have never signed up for the CrossFit Open, the 50K, the 50miler if I hadn’t been taught to give things your best, and if you fail…fu*k em (sorry Mrs. Coach, but I also learned, that if you got something to say, say it). I was taught to go for it every day. This blog scares me to death, every single post of it, but having been through losing seasons and championship seasons with Coach, I have learned that sometimes you just have to go out there lower your head and move forward. Sometimes there will be an insurmountable wall made of adversity and ridicule, but if you just keep plugging away eventually its gonna blow wide open and good things will happen. You just have to stick with what you know, focus on the basics, and play smashmouth life. My hope today is that whatever decision you have been teetering on, GO FOR IT! Sign up, run the race, try out for the play, take the test, audition for the role, send the application, go for the jog, join the gym, meet with the group, sign up for the class, enter your credit card and press the “submit” button. FU*K IT. Lemme know how it goes.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,