Monday, August 18, 2008

Why I didn't choose Usain Bolt for my team at recess.

I am just back from the track.  I was working on speed and endurance today.  My legs ache, my shins hurt and my knees are tender.  After my fourth set I wanted to quit, but I made myself stay, and do one more.  As many of you know, I have been training hard lately in order to become a better sprinter.  Thanks to these guys, a lot of hard work and a whole bunch of ice, I am getting there.  So I was particularly interested in the mens' 100 meter event at the Olympics.
On Saturday morning the world watched in amazement as Usain Bolt shattered the world record in the 100 meters with a blazing time of 9.69 at the Beijing Olympics.  (At least the part of the world not held captive by NBC, who had to wait up much past my bed-time).  He coasted the last 15 meters or so.  For everyone in the world, doing challenging things requires perseverance, determination, patience, bull head-ed-ness etc etc.  Now us normal people, the ones with goals like running 300 meters in 45 seconds, or a 21 minute 5K, becoming a 1 or 2 handicap golfer, shooting 50 percent from 3 point range, or batting .300, recognize that there are people in the world like Lebron James, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, and Usain Bolt.  I call them genetic lottery winners.  But Lebron, Tiger, and Michael are different from Usain:  Tiger is simply better than the rest of the PGA tour.  But he has never decided on the 14th hole, that since he was 6 or 7 strokes ahead of the field, he'd just goof off for the last four holes.  Likewise, while Lebron may dial down his intensity during a blowout, he would never mail in a performance just because he is the best player on the court.  Furthermore Phelps would not have been satisfied with 2 or 3 or even 7 gold medals, he knew he was competitive in 8 events, and he went out to win all eight.
Dick Marcinko, the fearless, leader of the hardest of the hardcore Navy SEAL Team 6 remarked in his book, Rogue Warrior that when choosing recruits for the most elite of the elite he never chose the guys who excelled in the Physical Fitness Test.  Instead, he chose the ones who barely passed.  Marcinko did not want the guy for whom everything was easy, he wanted the one who struggled and fought for everything he had.  This is a true, tested warrior.
In this country, no grade school athlete ever laces up a shoe without hearing about our great teacher John Wooden.  Wooden taught us that at the end of the day, it is not the scoreboard or the clock that defines success, but it is a simple question:  Did I do my best?  No body respects the athlete who, upon seeing that he is beaten, gives up.  Did Mr. Bolt behave differently?  Despite winning the event handily, and setting a world record, I cannot help but observe  that Usain Bolt failed to do his best.

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