Paint And Second Chances

by Rich on September 25, 2017

I am so lucky that cellphones with cameras didn’t exist thirty years ago. Neither did Facebook or Instagram. I dodged a technological bullet. Because brothers and sisters I am here to tell you, I did some really, really stupid stuff. I mean next level lunacy. Just flat out dumb. And guess what? So did you. We all did. It’s called growing up. And thankfully we survived. Not everyone is so lucky.

Every year, on virtually every college sports team, there is at least one player that does something stupid and against the rules and gets kicked off the team. Sometimes these players have broken a serious law. Sometimes that have done horrible things to other people. I’m not talking about those incidents. No, I’m talking about the players that make some of the same stupid, juvenile mistakes that you and I made as we transitioned from adolescence into adulthood. The underage drinking, the experimentation with drugs, the association with people who demonstrate questionable and inadequate decision making skills. We’ve all been there. And they are there now.

And I hate it for them, because these days a lot of these mistakes and poor choices are caught on camera and documented for all eternity via social media. When I deliberately ran over a bucket of white paint in the middle of the street and then backed up and spun out in the resulting puddle, spraying a neighboring fraternity’s parking lot with a snow-like mist, it became a legendary tale told at alumni tailgate parties. Today, that would go viral and I would probably be kicked out of school (full disclosure: this DID actually happen. My brothers and I spent hours with soap and sponges conducting the world’s largest midnight car-wash). Imagine if you hit your Twitter feed to find that the star player on your favorite team had done that? Off the team. For good. And there it would be…preserved for all electronic eternity.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that what happens to these players isn’t appropriate. In many cases, coaches have done all they can within the confines of the team framework to help them grow into responsible adults. And often getting kicked off the team is the kick in the pants these young people need to compel them to get serious about life. That may sound cliche’, but getting kicked out of college was one of the best things that ever happened to me (I’m not being even a little sarcastic). I did something stupid. I got caught. I did something else stupid. They asked me to leave. So I joined the Navy, met my best friend in the world, got focused, grew up, and went back to college. On my terms and for the right reasons. I’m one hundred percent a better man for that.

I bring all this up for two reasons. First, as a reminder to all of us on the outside looking in to maybe pump the breaks on all the judgemental attitudes. Does is seem like a waste when a Four Star athlete on a full ride gets kicked off the team for smoking pot? Sure. How many opportunities have you wasted in your life? I’ve lost count, personally. And I don’t think I’m alone.

The other reason is to tell those kids something important my uncle once told me: those mistakes don’t define you unless you allow them to. You create your future. No one else. Pick up, dust off, learn and move on.

It’s called growing up, and we’ve all been there.

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