Saturday, January 28, 2012

From the Archives,pt.7, The Flutie Factor

It may seem odd that I would run an article on an American football player but as you will soon see,what follows is something that we can all relate to and learn from.For those unfamiliar with football in the U.S., Doug Flutie played quarterback for the Buffalo Bills when this was written.The quarterback is the most important postion on a football team and the one where most of the offensive scoring is initiated from.I began the article by providing a quick bio.Doug had a highly successful collegiate career at Boston College but after graduation struggled in American football's premier league, the N.F.L.(as it was then called). After 3 or 4 years he was dropped and out of professional football. The rap of being too small and weak-armed had dogged him throughout his first foray into the N.F.L. Once out of the N.F.L.,Doug did what many rejected American players do,he signed with the exciting but less respected Canadian Football League. There he spent many successful years setting passing records and winning championships. Last year he indicated to owners in American Football that he wanted to return and would be open to their offers. Not surprisingly, there was virtually no interest in his announcement. Besides,with all the complaints about his supposed shortcomings,there was a new one being voiced,at 36 years of age, he was now considered to be too old.Doug was eventually able to sign at a "bargain basement" price with the Buffalo Bills. A month or two after this signing,the Bills showed their confidence in him as a starter by signing a highly regarded but untested quarterback for 25 million dollars, 24 1/2 million more than what they paid for Flutie. It was obvious to see who the Bills thought their starting quarterback would be. At this point I will fast forward to where a little more than half the '98 football season has been completed. After starting the season with three consecutive losses,the 25 million dollar quarterback was injured and Doug has taken over to lead his team to seven wins and one loss. This is a team that most experts don't believe is even one of the top ten teams in football. Flutie is also doing things and playing a type of football seldom seen in the over-coached,over-technical world of professional football. So what gives? Why has he become successful now? I have a few ideas as to why, what follows, in no particular order, are some attributes he has that are the reasons for his present success. Again,serious athletes can learn from his example.
#1. Flutie has always had tremendous confidence in himself and has never doubted that he would succeed if given the opportunity. How's your confidence by the way? You can believe it's not good if you don't even bother to set goals anymore. I think back to when I used to watch professional boxers being interviewed after they lost a fight. Invariably, they had a reason,some might call it an excuse as to why they lost. At first I thought it was weird that they just didn't admit they were beaten by a better fighter. Eventually I realized why,in a sport where confidence in one's self is so important to success, admitting you were inferior to another athlete could be disastrous. How about us? Do we just accept times and finishes that are below our expectations? Do we chalk it up to age or say, "well maybe I'm not as good as I think I am." Many runners are all too eager to beat up on themselves.
#2. Doug never gave up on his goal and had a fierce burning desire to reach it. After being cut from the N.F.L. he regrouped and did what was necessary to be ready for another opportunity. Arthur Lydiard has said that it takes 7 to 10 years of adherence to a training system to actually realize your potential.These days that length of time sounds like a lifetime to most people. If you want something bad enough and it becomes a part of your being,time is irrelevant. As you recall in the previous Ron Daws article, self-examination and re-evaluation are integral to achieving success. Sub-par running and racing should cause us to do this. A faulty training system,or heaven forbid,not having one, could be the reason for someone not performing up to expectations. Also,we may not be putting in the time necessary to reach our goals. One of the beautiful things about distance running is that,unlike the sprints, if you're willing to put in the time and effort, you can realize a surprising degree of success. Most of us unfortunately underestimate how much is required.
#3. Flutie persisted despite criticism and scorn from others. I remember listening to the various local sports talk shows and reading the newspapers in the months following his signing,the reporting was overwhelmingly critical and at times mean spirited. How's your tolerance to people telling you,you can't do it,or worse yet, questioning why you are even bothering? If you want something bad enough and you love what you are doing,nothing, or no one can stop you from going for it.
#4. Doug loves what he does. Whether its practicing or playing in whatever type of league he's in,he loves the game. Here's an example of this from the Buffalo News: Flutie was hanging out with his brother and a bunch of friends after a game in Buffalo when he realized he'd left his jacket at the stadium,they went back to get it. Stadium security heard a commotion on the field and found Doug and his friends playing touch football. Teammates of Flutie remark that his enthusiasm for the game is infectious and has them feeling like their "kids" again playing for the love of the sport. Readers have read in this newsletter before,sure it takes time and effort to reach your ultimate running goal(s),but so what? You love running, that underlies everything you do. As Cerutty said,what seems like a sacrifice to others is a labor of love to us.
In closing I say,thanks Doug, you've not only inspired me but I've been reminded of what it really takes to be a champion.
Update--sadly, in this day and age, athletes like Doug Flutie rarely are given the opportunity to prove themselves in pro-sports, where the dollar rules and risk taking his rare.

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