TIMMY WHO? LOYALTY WHAT?

Okay…I know that I'm an idealist so bear with me here, but John Elway and the Denver Broncos going after Peyton Manning and leaving Tim Tebow in the dust, makes me feel a bit nauseous. It kind of reminds me of high school when my prom date ditched me for one of my "best friends" as soon as we got to the dance...good times! Now, I'm a fan of both quarterbacks, I realize that Manning is a much better quarterback than Tebow, and I understand that the NFL is a "big business". But seriously, do these guys have any sense of loyalty whatsoever? Tebow took a team that was absolutely floundering and raised them from the dead (figuratively speaking) to help guide them to the playoffs. Then, he staged one of the most dramatic playoff wins Denver has ever seen! Not to mention, he has been great to the Denver community, he is working tirelessly to improve as a player and he made the Broncos one of the most popular teams in the league. Mr. Elway can probably even go open up a few more mediocre steakhouses with all the money that they made off of jerseys with the number 15 on them!

None of this matters in the controlling, ego-centric mentality of athletics though, as the the mindset is to win at all costs and win now. The pro sports leagues like the NFL use the excuse of, "Well, it's just business." But, I'd like to think that there is some loyalty in business. I would bet my money that the best businesses are the ones that also have a great deal of loyalty towards their employees and vice versa. Look at Apple, for instance! They gave up on the person who had founded their company for many years, in Steve Jobs. It wasn't until they brought him back on board and accepted his own loyalty to the company, did they start having tremendous success.

I love the movie "Miracle" about the Olympic gold winning USA hockey team in 1980 because it displays loyalty as a sacred value that leads to success. (Hopefully, this messsage was a true part of the real life story for my argument's sake!). In the movie, Coach Herb Brooks decides not to bring on a top-player late because he hasn't been within their family the whole time, through the ups and downs of training camp. He also keeps on a player who gets seriously injured right before the games start because he has worked so hard for that opportunity. He is loyal to his players and his players are loyal back to him. Their loyalty towards each other helped to create a chemistry and team bond that created one of the greatest upsets in sports history!

When I was in high school, I played at the Hun School of Princeton and struggled through some of my own lessons with loyalty. We were not very good my first few years and we would get demolished by some of the better prep teams like Lawrenceville and Peddie. Before my junior year, I visited Lawrenceville as they needed a new goalie for their lacrosse team. I would have been on a much better team, with nicer facilities, better equipment, a stronger schedule and more press. But, I remember feeling like I had helped start something at Hun and I wanted to finish it out with my friends and I knew it was going to be tough. We ended up having some great wins over those teams in football the next couple years and then got to the state prep lacrosse semi-finals against Peddie in my senior year. We lost in overtime to them, but I could not have been more proud of my high school, my friends and my teammates for how far we had come over those years. A lot of us had been loyal to that school and our teams for those four years and it had paid off greatly and taught us all a huge lesson!

These days (I know…I sound like a grumpy old man in my rocking chair), I notice in youth and high school sports that parents and kids are sometimes simply looking for the best teams to play on.
They will leave one team for another if they have a bad season. Shockingly, youth and club coaches have started recruiting kids even at the youngest youth levels so they can have the most talented team and dominate their leagues or tournaments (usually to make themselves look good). This means other kids that were on that team originally, then have to sit out. It also means that teams from other areas are then missing their best players. The message in all of this is who cares about loyalty to anyone when we can win games?

And that is the message that the Broncos are sending to their team right now and to every coach, player and parent in the sports world that is listening. The dreamer, the idealist in me, wishes that he could see what would happen if they would just be loyal to Tebow. However, that ego-centric world will continue to believe it is above any sort of moral or universal law like something as silly as loyalty. Statistics and experience and know-how and competence will all be placed in front of a mushy, emotional ideal. Hypothetically speaking though, what if they said to him, "You know what Tim? We know that Peyton is on the market right now and he is a great quarterback, but we are going to be loyal to you for what you were able to do for our organization last year. We know you have work to do and we believe you will keep getting better. You have shown that you can be absolutely great at times and also, you have been a tremendous role model for our community. We want to be loyal to you and we want you to be loyal to us by continuing to work hard and help us make this team great." I could be totally wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they would find great success in that approach. It might take some time, but I believe that it would pay off down the road. Unfortunately, we will never know in this case and that's too bad. Imagine the impact of that lesson on so many people in our culture…what a shame it has been squandered!

However, we can still find out for ourselves what loyalty can do in our lives and in our athletic world.
We can experiment with this idea by being loyal to our friends, our families and our teams and seeing where that takes us. At least for me, loyalty has brought me nothing but great joy in my life. And the times when I have been less than loyal, have been followed by sadness and disappointment. Suddenly, it becomes a lot less idealistic and a realistic value when we actually see what loyalty can do in our own lives.