February 18, 2017 by gregrabidoux2013
In just the last three weeks we, or at least those of us paying close attention, have witnessed a very rare trifecta of greatness, perfection really. And inexplicably, this greatness, while cheered heartily in some quarters has elicited just as many yawns, whistles of derision and downright resentment in many other quarters.
And that just ain’t right.
Let me explain.
My alma mater, the University of Connecticut Women Huskies basketball team recently won its 100th straight game. They have not lost a game since November 17th 2014 when they lost a squeaker to Stanford in overtime.
That makes 2 years and 3 months and counting without a loss. This program also are national champs for 4 straight years and counting. Breanna Stewart (Stewie) their All-Everything superstar, now playing professionally in the WNBA finished her collegiate career winning nearly every single game she played and was an NCAA I Women’s Champion for each of her 4 years of eligibility.
Back-to-Back-to-Back-to-Back. A Fourpeat.
The UCONN women’s team graduated 4 of its 5 starters, each an All-American and somehow under the direction of Coach Geno Auriema they are ranked #1 and the odds-on favorite to, you guessed it, win this years national championship. If they do so that would be #8.
Perfection? Not quite, but about as close as any coach and any program at any level has ever come to being perfect.
Outside of Storrs, CT though much of the media and fans of the game complain about how UCONN is “not good for the sport” and that “it is boring.”
Personally, I find the ongoing saga at UCONN as exhilarating and inspiring a sports story, really a life story there is for anyone at any age. It’s not just about becoming great for a game or a season. But sustained success? A lesson is there for any of us who want to truly learn and apply what it takes in any walk of life.
Not that far from the still mostly rural campus at Storrs is a magical place called Foxborough. That is where the NE Patriots NFL team sweat and grind through every practice, every film session and every OSW and SW under the direction of Coach Bill Belichik, aka, “The Hoodie.”
He and team leader and quarterback Tom Brady have now been to more Super Bowls than any coach-player tandem (7) and won more Super Bowls than any coach-player with 5 and counting.
Yet, to many outside of the confines of Foxborough and most of New England this unprecedented success and dynastic excellence in a league built for parity and uncertainty (this means better ratings apparently) is met with a range of emotions from disdain, disgust to outright resentment.
But what about deflated footballs? What about stealing signals years ago?
Silliness really. The former was mostly about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wanting to consolidate his internal power vis-à-vis the NFLPA and the latter. well, all teams try and steal signals and practice schemes they just got caught. And that was nearly 10 years ago.
Neither incident diminishes the near-perfection that a fast-approaching 40 year old QB and a perfectionist coach have achieved in a league as competitive, brutal and unforgiving as there is in the world.
Do your job indeed.
And recently, a true idol of mine, an athlete that seems to utterly personify grace and excellence, Roger Federer, won his unprecedented 18th Major Tennis title. At age 35, he is ancient. Having just come off of major knee surgery his victory over his longtime rival, Rafa Nadal at the often brutal Australian Open was to many, shocking. But really, after so many years of sustained brilliance any such win even at his age can no longer be shocking. The only thing nearly shocking is what the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus are accomplishing (still!) on the women’s tour. As an avid and competitive tennis player these three are setting the bar of perfection incredibly high in what I consider to be clearly the most difficult and demanding individual sport in the world.
So, why is there so much pushback against this greatness? So much seeming resentment and hatred?
is it inherently in our human nature, our genetic composition to fear, maybe even loathe the greatness of others? Does this all boil down to some Darwinian theory of tribal perpetuity and the need for the “herd” to not overlook “us” for “them?”
Look, I love the occasional “Cinderella” or underdog story in sports. Villanova “shocking” the Dukes, UNC’s and UCLAs of the March Madness. Or the “Lovable Cubbies” finally winning it all.
But let’s face it, those teams and their winning didn’t come out of a vacuum. Commitment, talent, a clear plan, and a collective will to win all helped those teams attain their dream. But what about next year? Or the year after, or the year after that and the next?
No, there is something very special about teams and individuals that don’t just win once or even when they are expected to but win match after match, season after season, year after year.
The deck is stacked against such perfection. Age, attrition, parity, league rules, injuries, free agency, resentment, scheduling, you name it, such perfection has all been outlawed.
But here they are again at the tops of their professions. The UCONN Husky Women’s Basketball program. The New England Patriots. Roger Federer. Serena and Venus Williams.
Resent if you must. Mock if you can’t help yourself. But you simply cannot deny their perfection.
And if you were really wise you’d learn from them and apply to your own life’s goals.
Because imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.
And boy, do these teams and stars deserve our flattery.