Dear Cam, What Happened on Sunday?

What does it take to get to the Super Bowl, Cam?

A lot of hard work, time, sacrifice and… something else.

However, during the post-game media interview following last Sunday’s Super Bowl, you were beyond stoic. You sat, for all of 7 minutes, with a hoodie pulled tight around your head, no eye contact, head down at times, barely answering questions from the media.

A day later, you said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”

Really, Cam?

According to your “expert analysis,” here’s a short list of quarterbacks who are losers: Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Fran Tarkenton, Roger Staubach, Joe Theismann, Dan Marino, (3-time loser) John Elway, (4-time loser) Jim Kelly, (crowned best quarterback, ever) Tom Brady, and, oh yeah, this year’s winning quarterback (and 2-time Super Bowl loser) Peyton Manning.

There’s more to the game than what’s on the score board at the end of the game.

“Sports do not build character,” journalist Heywood Broun said. “They reveal it.”

I don’t know what happened to you in the post-game interview and, frankly, I don’t care. Maybe you’ve been spending too much time listening to people like Donald Trump and not enough time listening to the right kind of coaches.

john-mccarthy

“You will hustle, you will be on time, you will give 100 percent to the team today, and we’ll see how the game comes out.”

That’s the living, breathing philosophy of John McCarthy, founder and head coach of Homerun Baseball, the Washington, D.C. based sports camp now in its 22nd season. You could learn a lot from this coach, Cam.

John McCarthy teaches parents and kids the skills they need both on and off the field – focus, persistence, generosity, and, character. He’s more interested in teamwork than batting averages, and more concerned with effort than talent. Ultimately, Coach Mac wants kids to understand that bad calls and good calls have a way of evening out both in the game and in life.

McCarthy describes himself as “an average college kid and washout baseball pitcher” in the Baltimore Orioles organization who, in 1992, started his Homerun Baseball Camp for kids. From running what has become the biggest summer camp in Washington D.C. to the critically acclaimed inner city reading and baseball program Elementary Baseball, McCarthy has worked with over 15,000 kids from every socio-economic background. (So, when it comes to coaching, Cam, he must be doing something right.)

The Wall Street Journal writes (May 2, 2015), that “ ‘[McCarthy] focuses so much on the why of the game – on effort and sportsmanship and the pieces that are not about winning but will get you to winning,’ said one mother, Jordan Lloyd Bookey, whose 5-year-old son is participating in baseball camp this spring.

“ ‘Dads want to raise a performer,’ Mr. McCarthy said. ‘I’ve seen really good boys quit baseball because their relationship with their dad was almost all performance-based, and the kid was like “I don’t want to do this anymore.” You never see that with moms.’

“He also works to expose his players to the world beyond baseball. For a recent Saturday session, he had the jazz saxophonist Antonio Parker play the national anthem. But before that, he interviewed Mr. Parker about his craft and compared music to baseball. ‘Both are performance-based. Both are joy-based. Both are rhythm-based. And both are practice-based,’ he said. Then he explained to his young charges the proper way to stand, hat in hand, heels together, while the anthem is played.

“His camp sessions all begin with a morning meeting like this. The first time [one mother] witnessed it, [her] baseball-crazed son, Luke, had just turned 4 and was finally old enough for camp. He practically flew from the car to the field. With a little help, Luke climbed onto the bleachers and took his place with the others for the morning meeting. Coach Mac began pacing in front of them, a dozen or so coaches behind him. He then asked all of the coaches – mostly high school and college students – what they were reading.”

Did you hear that, Cam? What was the last book you read, and what did you learn from it?

Here are just a few of the things Coach Mac stands for:

“I stand for…success over winning… focusing on one’s effort rather than talent…writing thank you notes… firing 3-2 knuckleballs with the bases loaded on the road…riding the waves at Huntington Beach…being a practical idealist…that something is not an ideal until it costs you something…shining your shoes…showing up with a fungo for early work…staying late to play stick-ball with your crew…giving teenagers their first job… giving a kid in the Dominican Republic his first baseball glove…calling it a tie if you forget the score in Ping-Pong…backing up a kid when an adult puts his hands on them in anger…backing up your friends…asking yourself if you are sharing enough every day…working on a service project with a spiritual leader…eye contact…arriving early to work to sweep up and pick up the trash …a good poker face…being optimistic…going entire seasons without saying something negative to an umpire…doing small things in great ways…delivering more than expected.”

That’s character, Cam.

And if you’re unwilling to do the things necessary to gain that character then I suggest that you either quit the game now, because you’re going to face a lot more disappointments, or spend some time with Coach Mac. It would be well worth your time.

Oh… just make sure that you read something good before showing up.

2 comments… add one
  • John Baldwin MD FACS February 10, 2016, 2:52 pm

    Reading, and then slowly re-reading to really absorb Jim’s editorial on Newton and McCarthy, I was brought up short by the …yes, I will use the word, “Bravery” that it took to call Mr. Newton out for his post-game attitude.

    In my life as a surgeon, I have “lost” patients to cancer, hemorrhage, overwhelming “blown-up” in Viet Nam, but never ever ever quit and dogged out. Jim’s pointing out the highly successful and wonderful role models: John Elway and Fran Tarkenton who took their share of Super Bowl losses with grace and honor resonates with me as one who saw all those games, and equated it to being heartbroken and yes, I cried… a Major, an experienced surgeon, by losing a bled-out 18-year-old G.I. KID, too late, too much damage.

    Now, and looking back, only prepared me to be BETTER for the next kid coming in by chopper or later in my career as a surgeon in Monterey, California. Most people forget or deny….you are BORN….you live and then you always DIE. In between is what really COUNTS.

    Jim Lichtman spoke for all of us who have been “losers” at some point in our lives, but sucked it up and took winning to a new level. Thanks, Jim.

  • Donna L Gallant February 22, 2016, 4:25 pm

    While I appreciate Jim’s commentary on ethical issues, I can’t say that I agree with his position on the behavior of Cam. In fairness, I have to admit that I don’t watch sports, and have no idea how Cam’s behavior looked on television. Quite honestly, I feel the media unfairly positions their camera(s) to catch the least favorable image of someone depending on how inflammatory they want the image to be.

    Rather than chastising Cam for his behavior and sadly bringing up the possibility of Cam listening to Donald Trump rather than the “right” kind of coaches, I think a more appropriate comment could have been one of understanding and compassion.

    From my perspective, anyone who excels at anything – sports, card playing, investing in the stock market, careers, performing, art, etc., have a gift, for sure. But once they become recognized by society as being exceptional individuals, the pressure to be perfect is driven up to unrealistic levels.

    Jim has made a decision and commentary on an individual’s character after seeing seven minutes of behavior. Seven minutes! How is it possible that is fair and reasonable? No one knows what that young man has been through from the time he was born. No one knows what is going on in his life every single day.

    Did his behavior seem childish? Maybe it did. But to suggest that it was childish makes the [one commenting] seem judgmental. No one has the right to judge another based on seven minutes of media coverage.

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