“Gimmie fuel, gimmie fire, gimme that which I desire.”
In the 2000 NFL draft, six quarterbacks were selected by teams before (now) four-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. He went in the sixth round, at number 199. When interviewed and asked, “What was that day like, watching so many athletes picked before you,” Brady had a moment. He choked up, recovered, and stated plainly enough, “It was a bad day.”
An ESPN program titled The Brady 6 examined the quarterbacks chosen before Brady, and made careful note of the fact none of them has achieved anywhere near the success Brady has. This made me wonder two things: how much the slight of being selected late fed Brady’s desire to achieve greatness, and how people who get too much handed to them too early crumble under pressure.
Sports history books are littered with names of first round, big money quarterbacks gone bust: Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell, Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf… While it’s obvious they had to work hard to make it to the NFL, what happened between being picked and falling apart? Did they think they had made it and could thus slack off—Leinart/Russell—or did they not understand the enormous leap it takes from playing in college to performing in the NFL—Couch/Leaf? It is widely noted JaMarcus Russell seemingly gave up as soon as the ink was dry on his contract. He was handed $32 million (guaranteed), and then stopped working out, gained weight, and lost games. At twenty-five, he said he was retiring from the sport, because, well, he could. $32 million is enough to last several lifetimes.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who fought through at least a modicum of adversity to stand taller than their peers: think Super Bowl Champions Kurt Warner, Joe Montana, and especially Aaron Rodgers.
Though I have in no ways “made it” in my industry—stand-up comedy—and am not comparing my accomplishments to their achievements, I do understand the burn neglect instills in a person. I feel strengthened by the shit I’ve taken throughout my career. Thus, stories of beating the odds are not only uplifting to me, they create hope, or possibly even faith. They make me continue onward, just to prove that I can take the weight of indifference upon my back and continue walking where others in my field have fallen to the wayside.
Though I struggle, I continue onward, every day, one foot in front of the other. I write new material, hear more laughs, and move continuously forward. Every year I wonder if it is worth it, but along the way little things happen to boost my energy. I write books, podcast, and have had memes go viral. I may not have “made it,” but day-by-day I continue while others fall to the wayside. It inspires me just a little, to know that my shoulders can bear a harder load than they could handle, to know that after everything I’ve slogged through, I’m still slogging.
Of course there are oddities enough to skew any statistic; Peyton Manning went first round, and was a huge success. Conversely, I remember Brady Quinn—expected to go 1styet falling to 22nd—leaving the draft room, so embarrassed by his slide he couldn’t take the cameras. Instead of using that slight to show the naysayers like Tom Brady did, Quinn pouted, held out for a huge contract, and then went bust. So maybe this is all conjecture and I am nothing but a bullshit artist.
Maybe I am wasting my life, and maybe my faith goes into the wrong places, but I love Randal’s speech at the end of Clerks II. I have to believe everything I’m doing is leading to something, that no moment is ever wasted, and that the payoff will be worth it. If I didn’t, what point would there be in getting up every morning?
All I know is I will face every day, standing, chin out, ready for the hit. What will happen to me, and what will happen to the next first round, big money NFL pick?
All remains unknown.
But hope remains.
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