Sunday, August 12, 2007

What is meaningful? What is meaningless?

I watched my nephew practice high school varsity football. He's talented. He's knowledgeable. He's too slow, in his coaches' opinions, to be a starter at Middle LB. If he was equally as fast as the two kids ahead of him, one of them would be on the bench.

My brother and I both had the same initial reaction: my nephew must change positions, and find a place to be a starter (thus maximally helping the team). My nephew is a block of intelligent and tough granite. He could be an outstanding Offensive Guard, or an outstanding Nose Guard. At a minimum, he could go into the game as an extra blocking tight end.

My brother and I also had the same secondary reaction: maybe it's best if my nephew continues to play Middle LB, even if he is a backup, because he LOVES being a MLB - even if he is mostly a MLB in practice. He gets to call the defensive plays, he gets to call out offensive formations, he gets to move defensive players into proper position against offensive formations, he gets to be cerebral during the play: reading the OGs, and the FB, to determine where he should go after the snap. He loves this stuff more than he would love playing OG, and more than he would love playing NG. As for the team, they need a talented backup MLB who has practiced against the offense of that week's opponent, and who knows the proper defensive calls and the proper defensive positioning against each of the opponent's formations.

Whether my nephew ever starts or not is irrelevant to his life in any meaningful way. What is relevant is that he does the very best he can at his tasks. Let the circumstantial chips fall where they may. The virtuous action of doing his best is what is important. The virtuous action is the result my nephew is looking for.

The arbitrary decisions of humanly fallible coaches are not the results my nephew is looking for. They are, instead, circumstances beyond his control. As are the arbitrary presences of two faster MLBs on his team. Flukey circumstances are meaningless. Virtuous action is meaningful. Doing your best is meaningful. You can control what you bring to the task.

Meaningful (heh) change of subject:

I noticed one of my nephew's football teammates wearing number 26.

Consider number 26: virtually NO ONE ever wears it. It is an afterthought number.

Three good players who have worn number 26:
  • Steelers DB Rod Woodson;
  • Cowboys CB Kevin Smith;
  • Vikings RB Robert Smith.
Sports Illustrated named Woodson as the best player in any sport to ever wear number 26.

If I was coming into the NFL as a WR or a RB or a DB, and I might develop more talent than Rod Woodson, I would choose number 26. I would then have a chance to become known as "the greatest player ever to wear number 26." Meaningless, yet delicious! Rookies like WR Calvin Johnson and RB Adrian Peterson should consider wearing number 26. Either of them might become a better player than Rod Woodson.

Separately: almost no football player ever wore number 29. But RB Eric Dickerson did wear it, and he would be very difficult to surpass in talent. That number might belong to him for a long time. Sports Illustrated selects Pitcher Satchel Paige as the greatest number 29 of all time.

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