Practice? We’re Talking About Practice?

Photo: Brian Spurlock

Human beings have a lot of choice about how we are going to live.  Here in America people are guaranteed certain freedoms, and those freedoms when acted upon, largely determine the kind of life that a person will live.

You and I each have the freedom to do what we want, when we want to do it.  While we understand that how we choose to employ this personal liberty will play a role in what happens to us, we often forget that how we act upon our freedoms also plays a role in how others get to live their lives as well.

In short, we don’t get to pick what happens to us, we only get to pick our response to what happens to us.

Peyton Manning wanted to spend his entire professional career as the Quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts and he exercised his personal freedoms and responsibilities to that end.  In doing so he started 200 games for the team, amassing over 50,000 yards passing, a world championship and 4 League Most Valuable Player awards.

Today, Colt’s owner Jim Irsay fired Peyton Manning.

He didn’t want to, he had to.

Peyton Manning had to sit out the entirety of last season with a career threatening neck injury.  Because of this the Colts finished dead least in the league, earning the number one position in the amateur draft.  The two best players in this draft are both young, “can’t miss” Quarterback prospects.

To keep play competitive, the league has a maximum amount that a team can pay it’s players.  To prevent rich teams from hoarding all of the good players, they won’t allow a team to spend whatever it wants on salaries.  Because he receives such a large amount of his team’s overall salary, Peyton makes too much money for his team to keep him… especially when they have another opportunity to draft a great young Quarterback out of college.

They can choose to keep Manning and surround him with just a few good players, eventually disintegrating as he ages, or cut him loose and start all over again.

The Colts were in a similar situation 15 years ago when they had the first pick and Peyton Manning was the top collegiate prospect at the University of Tennessee.  What made that year easier is that Manning would eventually replace a very ineffective Jim Harbaugh at Quarterback.

Now the Colts have to release the game’s most outstanding player to maintain their ability to compete for future championships.

Jim Harbaugh didn’t get to choose whether or not he stayed in Indianapolis,

He only got to pick his response to his firing.

The Colts didn’t get to pick that Manning would be injured,

just their response to his injury.

Manning doesn’t have a choice about playing for the Colts,

just a response to the disappointment.

In the same way that we fail to grasp how our decisions will impact the lives of others, we also fail to realize that “who we are” is revealed  by our responses to disappointment as equally as our responses to success.  We don’t get to pick what will disappoint us, but we always get to pick how we will respond to it.

In today’s press conference Manning demonstrated that while he would never have chosen this path for himself, he is exactly who we’ve always believed him to be;

and above all, classy.

We preach a mantra that “sports build character”, but that statement comes up short under analysis.  What actually builds character is practice- which is a part of life, not sport.  Each of us lives out the things that we intentionally and purposefully practice.  Practicing the right things builds a value for the right things, and sports merely reveal the things that we have practiced.

Practice builds our character, sports just reveal it to the world.

Peyton Manning plays a brand of football that reflects his values and beliefs.  Those are the things that he’s practiced on and off the field.  The on-the-field sport of football reveals his character to us in the same way that the off-the-field business of football today.

Peyton didn’t get to pick the fact that he will have to play football somewhere else next year, but he will still get to pick how he plays it…

and we’ll all be better for it in the final analysis.

“…When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” – James 1:3-4

2 Responses to “Practice? We’re Talking About Practice?”

  1. Bob Weaver March 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    How about Peyton Manning going to Denver as a mentor back up quarter back for Tim Tebow, WOW what they could do: Talent, competitiveness, leadership and character: After reading Tim’s book, I am a fan!!! Bob

    • Jon March 7, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

      That would be insanely cool! I wonder how Peyton would play in the snow?

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