I turn to For Underdogs Only today after a necessary break. It’s not easy. I perform better without stopping. During a long run or hike breaks may give me back my breath, but they simultaneously drain momentum with yet another start from standing still.
At least I’ll head back into the book with the gift of distance, and the encouraging words of my mentor. So what if he’s a football coach? He gets what it’s like to drive hard for something that may have absolutely no payoff in the end.
When I dropped off draft one to him last week he said, “Here’s the thing. Even if nothing ever happens with this book will you be glad that you wrote it?”
I told him without hesitation that I will.
“Then you’re fine. I trained for seven years to make it to the Olympics, and in the end made it to the top ten. That’s not good enough for the Olympics. But, I’m glad I did it.”
It’s all about having the courage to go for something, and to work hard at it every day.
When I interviewed David Baker, the father of Sam, and former Commissioner of Arena Football, I walked away inspired. Although a seven-foot tall former football and basketball player himself, David majored in English. Talking to him encouraged me to believe that melding my love for sports and literature isn’t so strange as he quoted literary icons and venerated Coach Miller and Coach Pete Carroll. He referenced Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If,” and it’s to this poem I turn now since it encompasses in one poem, the way Miller lives his life and trains his boys to be men … and a poem that I’ve now taken to reading regularly.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!