Much angst has plagued Philadelphia sports fans the past several weeks over the words or behavior of some the city’s biggest sports stars. As with just about every other situation in Life, there are lessons to be learned and subtle insights into truths that can lie just below a stormy surface.
Two recent cases-in-point need no introduction to any Philly sports fan not lying in coma the past month.
The first incident was the very public benching of Phillies shortstop, Jimmy Rollins.
Rollins was benched – somewhat stealthily – by new manager Ryne Sandberg, a Hall of Fame player who earned his plaque from both Production and Effort. Although it was obvious that Rollins had wandered into Sandberg’s doghouse, it was only slightly less obvious the likely reason was Rollins “Who cares?” remark to questions about his slow start to the Spring Training season.
I have always been a big Jimmy Rollins fan. Even more so since his 2007 statement that the National League East Championship passed through Philadelphia. Not only was this an aggressive statement in a season following several where the NL East was dominated by the Atlanta Braves, Rollins walked the talk; won the 2007 National League MVP; and ensured the Phillies first Division Title in string of division titles!
Yet, no one found fault with Sandberg’s public – though muted – benching of the team’s senior statesman during the spring lead-up to Sandberg’s first full season in the Phillies captain’s chair. He needed to set a positive attitude, including a mindset where caring mightily about wins and losses would be paramount. So even though it was “only Spring Training”, Rollins was sent a message about Leadership, Substance, and Mentoring.
Now read the views on Spring Training ’14 as uttered by Chase Utley, the Phillies second baseman in The Philadelphia Inquirer’s April 5 article on Utley’s hot season start in contrast to his quiet spring.
“Obviously, you’re looking for results in spring training, but being around for a while, I know that’s not the most important thing.”, Utley said. “The most important thing is getting your rhythm going into the season.”
First off, no one is going to confuse Utley and Rollins in either personality or demeanor on the field. Utley is all business all the time. Rollins enjoys the game and is not afraid to show it. Personally, if blessed with the ability to play the game at their level, I would prefer Rollins approach to enjoying the game as much as possible, if not necessarily his undervaluing the Power of Words.
In reality, Utley was expressing the very same mindset Rollins expressed when it comes to Spring Training success … or lack thereof. The difference is that Utley’s quote was not issued in the midst of a slump – even if only a spring training slump. Secondly, it’s not like Utley to be so flippant as to reduce his well-stated sentiment into two words certain to curdle the milk in Ryne Sandberg’s corn flakes!
Moral: It ain’t so much what you say as how – and when – you say it.
Sometimes what’s not said that says all you need to know …
When I first heard the rumors about the Eagles shopping Jackson, I chalked it up to off-season football beat writers being a bit bored waiting for the April college player draft. No way could I see the Eagles wanting to jettison a skilled player that yielded 1300 yards and 9 TDs in just the previous season.
How could they be so stupid?!?
But then the stories – or rumors for all we really know – began to come out. A lot of it was disturbing from a team unity/distraction-avoiding point-of-view … The most incriminating pieces of evidence coming from Jackson’s own Instagram account.
Until the whole story comes out – if it ever does – no one will really know what the Eagles knew and when they knew it.
The Big Aha! – for me however – was not what was being said; it was in what was NOT being said … by those in the Eagles locker room.
Where were the players when “one of their own” was being pilloried in the press and set adrift by a team that lives or dies by the profligacy of its Offense?!? Why was there no circling of the wagons, no outward signs of support from those still with the team? Where was the All for One and One for All?
Only LeSean McCoy came out in tacit support of Jackson, but that was only after the deed was done.
To me, that said so much more than all the stuff that was being said about the character of Jackson. It was apparent that his standing among his team and teammates was lacking significantly. It was obvious that there was certainly something behind what was being said, even if we never really know for sure what it was.
Moral: Sometimes saying nothing says it all!