“Iron sharpens iron, as a man sharpens his friend.” Proverbs 27:17. I am reading a biography of Vince Lombardi, best known as the formidable coach of the Green Bay Packers. He gained both his football acumen and his molder of men knowledge as assistant coach at West Point and with the New York Giants pro football team. Much like his latter day incarnation, Bill Belichick, he very much believed Proverbs 27:17. In Green Bay he was preceded by a very wishy washy, casual and ineffective coach, and he realized that the players needed to get tougher on themselves. Whenever a player made a mistake in practice or wasn’t giving his all, he was kicked off the field and had to run laps around the perimeter. One of the players he recruited for his team was an all pro veteran from the NY Giants, Emlen Tunnell. The better and more important a player was to the team, the more Lombardi expected of him and the harder he was on him. Me understood this and ran his laps with enthusiasm and good nature, realizing that he was expected to set an example for the others. The same happens on the New England Patriots. Belichick is hardest on Brady, his best and most important player.
The title of the book is, When Pride Still Mattered. The kind of pride that real men have in their being called to set an example, when they know they are being singled out for harder treatment for that reason, is worthy of being preserved. That’s how men forge their closest bonds with each other. Em and coach Lombardi were great friends off the field too. Iron sharpens iron, as a man sharpens his friend. Maybe not so much today. I can’t speak authoritatively about female relationships, but I doubt that most women become very friendly with each when they have to say hard truths between them. Unfortunately, I have the same suspicions about modern men. Lombardi era men didn’t get triggered so easily. Perhaps men of that era were too stoic for their own and their family’s good. That was true of my own father, who in every way but showing emotions was a great example-setter. I wish our President Trump was a little more stoic and even tempered, though his outbursts always lead to the media and Democrats revealing more of who they are, very little of which is a good example either.
Vince Lombardi and President Reagan were better leaders, in that they believed that leadership was less about what you do and more about what you can enable others to do. Ron Kramer, the tight end of Lombardi’s Packers, said of their favorite play, The Sweep, “everybody is important on that play. It’s really all of life. We all have to do things together to make this thing we call America great. If we don’t, we’re f**ked.” Uh oh, early MAGA. Leaders are about others—their family, their country, their team—rather than themselves. They comport themselves consciously to bring honor on those they are associated with.
By my definition, the most visible members of the US Women’s National Team soccer are not leaders. The most self promoting and vociferous member, Megan Rapinoe, held the trophy up during a parade to honor the team, and said to the camera, “I deserve this.” In contrast, I have watched countless Heisman Trophy and NFL Hall of Fame acceptance speeches, and have not seen a single instance of Rapinoe‘s words uttered. Rather, virtually every Heisman winner thanks their families, coaches, teammates and mentors and defer the honor to them. Same for the NFL HOF recipients, though many of them are so old and battered that they also thank their doctors.
I think our country is at a great crossroads. Will we be a nation of the Star Spangled Banner, or a nation of “look at me, I’m the star”? Which is more likely to guarantee our children have a future? To help you decide, here are the first stanzas of our traditional national anthem, and my updated version for a self-seeking nation. Remember, Megan says “I will never sing the National Anthem.”
“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light. What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
“Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
For her and “like-minded” people (Speaking with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Megan said that she would be willing to have a “substantive conversation” with “anyone” … who “believes the same things” as she does), my version (sing to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner):
“Oh say can you tweet, by the iPhones blue light, while so groggy we groan, after last nights demonstration,
“fueled with outrage and spite, cracking skulls of the right, O’er the ramparts we stormed, smugly virtue-signaling, “
“That Antifa was there, giving cops their hard stare, gave proof through the night, white privilege laid bare,
“oh, props to your bandanna and your groupthink so brave, o’er the land of the grieved and the home of the knave.“