Success Vs. Excellence

Success Vs. Excellence

Just about the last thing I wanted to see this morning. Headlines describing Penn State’s worst “beating” in 114 years. Awesome.

They say chivalry is dead. Is sportsmanship dead too?

I’m all for friendly competition. Isn’t it great when everybody plays their best and at the end of the day everyone, whether winning or losing, sincerely feels it was a good game and looks forward to the next meeting. Wouldn’t it feel better this morning if we could say, “ah good one Ohio State, we’ll get ya next time!”?

But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels bitter. I feel accosted by headlines that tell me my team was handed a beating. As if one is supposed to say “thank you” when handed such a thing.

I don’t want to make any accusations towards Urban Meyer or any other Ohio Stater. It could just be the despicable media once again stirring up trouble. Coach Meyer is quoted as saying it wasn’t his intention to run up the score but it helps. One of his players said, “We wanted to make a statement.”

Well you sure did make a statement, but was it the one you intended? You showed you are just like everybody else. That you live for the rankings. That being #1 is the absolute goal, no matter what you have to do to get there. That destroying another team is impressive.

ohio state footballOhio State, you have a 20-game winning streak. Be proud of yourselves! You fought some unexpectedly tough competition earlier this season and you still came out on top. You’re doing great on your own merit. It is beneath you to embarrass a fellow Big Ten opponent.

Something is wrong with a system that encourages lopsided wins. Who are the voters that are impressed by this? What are we teaching our children?

Last week, just two months into his formal school career, my nephew’s teacher suggested he may be a bit behind the other kids. He’s five. He’s creative and innovative and has a memory better than most people I know of all ages. But other kids have more skills in an arbitrary list of skills five year olds in school are supposed to have. Perhaps my sister should enroll him in after school tutoring, start using flashcards at the dinner table, spend weekends teaching him calculus so that he can destroy the competition.

“There are many people, particularly in sports, who think that success and excellence are the same thing. They are not the same thing. Excellence is something that is lasting and dependable and largely within a person's control. In contrast, success is perishable and is often outside our control. If you strive for excellence, you will probably be successful eventually. People who put excellence in the first place have the patience to end up with success. An additional burden for the victim of the success mentality is that he is threatened by the success of others and he resents real excellence. In contrast, the person that is fascinated by quality is excited when he sees it in others.”

Yeah, Joe Paterno said that. He often says it better than the rest of us. Thanks, Joe, for teaching us to strive for excellence.

I hope we never succumb to the pressure of this insane sports world. I hope Penn State players always demonstrate the utmost sportsmanship, hand the ball to the referee, and walk away from a loss with heads held high. I hope we continue to strive for excellence, knowing that success is just around the corner.

Penn State football