A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning.
DARING TO BE GREAT
Back in the 1970s, an 8th-grade dropout named Glenn W. Turner went from a sharecropper with a harelip and a speech impediment to a man who nearly turned the entire cosmetics industry upside down with a multi-level marketing scheme that the government later deemed an illegal pyramid scheme. At the center of Turner’s rise was a motivational program called “Dare to be Great” whose premise was that ordinary people could achieve greatness if only they believed in themselves and had the courage to set goals they might have once thought unachievable for any number of reasons. Turner convinced people that greatness starts with a choice you make and then the discipline to stay focused on achieving that goal.
We don’t know exactly when Billy Donovan first dared this Florida basketball team to be great, but at some point those four seniors – Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather – made the choice to pursue greatness and the rest of the team followed. What has happened in the months since is the feel good story of the year in college basketball for this Florida team that has won 30 straight games to reach the NCAA Final Four isn’t nearly as talented as Florida’s back-to-back national championship teams in 2006 and 2007 that were led by future NBA first rounders Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. If you just want to take the meat market approach and judge everything by the sight test, then this Florida team isn’t even the most talented team in Arlington, Texas for tonight’s NCAA semifinals.
Now that’s not to say that this isn’t a talented team because you can’t go 36-2 if you don’t have adequate talent, but what makes this Florida team great isn’t overwhelming talent but the way the talent truly blends together to function as the sum of all its parts. There isn’t another team with Florida’s chemistry nor is there a team out there that believes in itself the way the Gators do.
It’s one thing to dare to be great. That’s the easy part. Lots of people say “I’m going to be great” but don’t have the discipline or work ethic to pull it off. The Gators not only bought into the idea they could be great but they were willing to take on the challenge of coming to work every single day with the very simple idea of doing whatever it takes on this day to get better. That has taken resolve, a willingness to fight through fatigue and adversity, and a singular determination by all the players on this team to do whatever it takes to take the next step in the journey toward greatness.
The next step has the Gators in Arlington, Texas, today where they will face UConn (30-7) at the House that Jerry Built (6:09 p.m., TBS). The Gators are favored to win this one for a variety of reasons – they play great defense, they’ve go the best coach, they’ve got the most experienced team, and so on – but if they come away with the win to advance to Monday night’s national championship game, it will have everything to do with daring to be great and having the courage to turn a dare into something tangible. This is a Florida team that believes. This is a Florida team that understands what it takes to be great.
This is a Florida team that is going to win this game.
FINAL FOUR PREDICTIONS
I think Florida is indeed a team of destiny. I think it’s close for the first 30 minutes then Florida’s superior depth and inside game will take over. In game two, I think Kentucky has the most talent but Wisconsin’s discipline and ability to defend without fouling will make the difference.
I like Florida over Wisconsin on Monday night.
FUNNY, BUT NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT THIS
For all the talk about the courage it took for Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter to organize his teammates to go to the National Labor Relations Board for the sole purpose of forming a union, nobody seems to want to talk about certain inconvenient realities.
In his testimony before the NLRB and in statement he’s made to various media outlets, Colter paints himself as a victim. He talks about how football prevented him from pursuing his dream of being a doctor, that his pre-med academic requirements and football couldn’t co-exist. Colter complained that he couldn’t schedule chemistry classes needed for his pre-med major because it conflicted with football practice. He further complained that Northwestern violated his right to free speech by its insistence that he delete a single tweet one day, one that included one or more of George Carlin’s seven words you can never say on television.
The way Colter puts it, he is a real victim here and therefore he is unionizing players so they won’t have to go through life as cruel victims of football.
I refuse to buy that Colter is any kind of victim.
1. No one held a gun to Kain Colter’s head and made him sign a football scholarship to Northwestern University. He made that choice to play football in exchange for a scholarship that would allow him to graduate from one of America’s most prestigious – and expensive – universities debt-free. While most students who attend Northwestern have to take out large student loans to pay the more than $60,000 annual tab for room, board, tuition and books, Colter graduated debt-free.
2. If medicine were so important then why didn’t he shop around and find a school that could have accommodated both football and a pre-med course of study? It’s not like he’s the only college football player who dreams to become a doctor. That never stopped Myron Rolle, who graduated early from Florida State, won a Rhodes Scholarship, and is now in medical school. Was it that Rolle was more motivated or that FSU was more accommodating? If Colter truly wanted to be a doctor, he could have found a way.
3. Colter says football is a job and the NLRB regional office in Chicago has agreed. That being the case, employers have a right to demand when their employees work, what they can wear, and what kind of behavior – and speech – is acceptable. If the boss says do it this way, then by golly, you do it that way or else you find a new place to work.
4. Colter doesn’t mention the fact that all the time he was at Northwestern, he had access to tutors and learning labs that the average, every day student can only dream about.
Now, no one can deny that college football players do put their bodies on the line and risk injury to play their sport. Nor can anyone deny that there are numerous players in the college game who couldn’t care less about academics because they are there to prep for a shot at the NFL. But, it’s not like the players are doing this without some sort of reward.
Colter does make some legitimate points about lingering injuries after the scholarship days are over. Colleges should guarantee that if a player is hurt playing a sport that the school will stand by the player and cover future expenses that are directly related to the injury. That’s only fair. And there are other changes that should be made to help players, but to say that Kain Colter was exploited by Northwestern for his ability to play football is dead wrong. Nobody forced Colter to play football at Northwestern. That is a choice he made. If being a doctor were more important than football, then he could have transferred somewhere that could have accommodated him.
Sorry, but I don’t buy his victim routine for one second.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
No Texas Week would be complete without a contribution from the great Delbert McClinton, whose style really can’t be defined by rock and roll, blues or country music. Let’s just say Delbert dabbles in whatever feels good at the moment and whatever that is usually sounds good. If you’ve never seen him in person, it’s worth the price of admission. He’s 70 years old and still going strong. He’s playing St. Augustine today at the Rhythm and Ribs Festival and you can bet one of the songs he’ll play is “Every Time I Roll the Dice.”