Something Greater


Sports Illustrated

I’ve rarely rooted for the team that ends up winning the Super Bowl.

As a kid I would usually pick the team I would cheer for based on just about anything other than what had happened on the field all year.


All of these were more important than player personnel and even regular season records.

This I the main reason why I’ve never rooted for the 49ers in a Super Bowl.  For their first Super Bowl victories I held out against them for childish reasons.

I liked the Bengals helmets more than the Niners’ drab costuming.

There was a guy named Super-Duper who played for the Dolphins,

I preferred Ickey Woods’ dancing to Jerry Rice’s.

By the early 1990’s I had begun playing organized football; I was able to understand the nuance of the game in ways that helped me appreciate the 49ers gameplay.

This only meant that I was able to understand why they thoroughly dismantled my favorite teams.

I appreciated them, but I couldn’t like them.

This year things are different for me, but it’s still because of something that happened off the field.

Earlier this season 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh sat a perfectly good quarterback on the bench in order to start an unproven leader.  It was a controversial decision because that “perfectly good” quarterback had not only led the team to the brink of last year’s Super Bowl, but he also had a very good record this season.

He took a big risk, and that risk has begun to pay off in a major way.

Being willing to set down “good” in order to pick up “better” is a risk that most people never take.  Forget sports franchises for a moment and just consider how often we choose to play it safe because in the time between setting down “good” and actually grasping “better” we expose ourselves to uncertainty, risk, and danger.

This 49er team is essentially the exact same team that played for last year’s NFC Championship.  Conventional wisdom tells us to keep doing the same thing and eventually tenacity will pull us through.

It was ignoring conventional wisdom that got San Francisco a step beyond where they had previously been.

Football, like life, is filled with uncertainty, risk, and danger.

Being willing to risk “good” to get “great” doesn’t guarantee greatness, it just makes greatness possible.

The Niners may win and the Niners may lose today, but being willing to take “the next step” is what motivates me to pull for them this afternoon.

Risk cannot guarantee greatness, but being willing to risk is the sign of a desire for something better than the acclaim and renown that greatness brings.

-Being willing to risk is a sign of the personal desire for excellence.-

After watching 30 years of sports I’ve learned that a thirst for greatness generally leads to humiliation and embarrassment, while the thirst for excellence precedes nearly all satisfying gratifications.

This is quite often the main difference between the desires we have, and the work we need to do.

The difference between a desire for greatness and a quest for excellence is demonstrated by the risk and work that happens off-the-field, even if it never appears on a scoreboard.

I haven’t forgotten the color schemes, mascots, haircuts, and sparkly shoes.

I haven’t forgotten my own favorite team.

I’ve simply been intrigued by a desire for excellence that transcends them.

Go Niners.

3 Responses to “Something Greater”

  1. Mark Dunker February 3, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Rooting for the Niners? Finally getting some wisdom in your later years, my friend.

    • Jon February 3, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Finally… But I can’t root for the Giants!

  2. Debbie February 4, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    Good choice! I rooted for the 49ers. They “almost” did it. Prefer the Ravens team colors but wanted the west coast team. Go niners!

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