Can the Country Take a Page from Sports and Get Over Being “Trumped?”

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Buddy Ryan’s Lasting Legacy: Leadership by Example
August 19, 2016
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Partners & Players, LLC Interviews
A-Game Sports Founders about Presidential Election Results

Can the Country Take a Page from Sports and Get Over Being “Trumped?”

Basia Ryn:
“Larry and Rita – The two of you have been quite outspoken regarding the escalating racial tension our country has witnessed over the past year – white police officers shooting unarmed black civilians, blacks shooting white cops that had nothing to do with it, etc. Now we have people ‘taking it to the streets,” protesting president-elect Donald Trump, calling him a racustm a misogynist, etc. We have people like CNN commentator Van Jones talking about the country’s genuine fear that we’ll have everything from mass deportations of illegal immigrants and internment of Muslims, to endorsed “bullying” of women and the mentally challenged. What do you guys think? Anything we can take from the world of sports here to help the country heal?”

Larry:
“Well, Basia – I think people are still a bit shell shocked. According to the news media, Trump didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected. I mean anyone who wasn’t going to vote for Clinton should just stay home, pour themselves a stiff drink, and drown their sorrows, right? So, I guess the first lesson we take from sports here is, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” But I do think that because this election was SO emotionally charged, it shines an even brighter light on the overall “popular vote versus Electoral College issue.” I mean, on the one hand, we tell everyone that their individual vote counts, but on the other hand, a candidate can win the popular vote, but lose the election. We’re telling people that – when it’s all said and done – someone is more qualified than you are to determine who should be your President. And while this seems to fly in the face of “democracy,” it isn’t exactly a “new” concept. I mean, by electing senators and congressmen, we’re essentially saying they are more qualified than we are to chart the course of our future. And we’ve been doing this since Roman times. Still, it’s a legitimate debate, and it will be interesting to see what happens with these proposed bills to abolish the Electoral College.”

Rita:
“I agree. And speaking of sports analogies, a presidential election is like a prize fight. There’s a lot of “hype” leading up to the big day. Both sides beat their chests and talk smack about the other camp. If their candidate doesn’t win, we’ll all wake up to a nuclear wasteland. The skies will stay dark for all eternity. Men will jump off buildings. Women and children will run terrified in the streets. You name it. And this is nothing new. When my grandmother past away, we found a lot of old poems among her things. One referenced President-Elect Eisenhower. It said, “The election is over. The results are known. And all our feelings are clearly shown. Let’s give Ike all the backing he needs, and all hard feelings will pass. I’ll hug your elephant. You kiss my ass.” [Laughter.] Now from what I understand, college kids out in California are getting “grief counseling” and being allowed to skip class because they are so traumatized by Trump’s election. But here in Texas, life goes on. The last time I checked, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. I’m sure much of what Trump said during the election was bravado to stir up the emotions of his base. Now we go from WWE smack talk back to reality. I’m sure Trump will surround himself with smart people, as he has always done in business.”

Basia:
But this general feeling of disenfranchisement among a large part of the population is real, right?

Larry:
No doubt. It’s very real. Much of it is fueled by legitimate fear. As Rita and I have discussed in the past, people aren’t imagining things like increased aggression from police officers against those they perceive as a threat. I had an extremely negative encounter myself over the summer. I had a flat tire – a flat tire, BASIA RYN I was back in Nacogdoches, Texas where I went to college. I had been playing pool with some buddies until pretty late, and got a flat heading back to where I was staying. I pulled into a parking lot, and parked under a light to better see to fix this flat. A young cop pulls up — literally looking for trouble where none existed. I had a case of unopened beer in my trunk. That’s it. And if that were illegal, there wouldn’t be enough jail cells to hold all the law breakers in Texas. [Laughter]
Still, this officer just wouldn’t stop. He was looking for any reason to give me a sobriety test. Honestly, I found him extremely aggressive and disrespectful. I never once pulled the “Do you know who I am thing?” – and I’m here to tell you I’m a pretty big deal in Nacogdoches [Laughter]. But I DID go down to the police station the next day. The sergeant had the nerve to say, “If it makes you feel any better, all our officers aren’t like that. He’s just a young kid with something to prove.” I said, ‘Hell no, that doesn’t make me feel any better! What if he’d pulled my son over instead of me?’ My son’s a young kid with something to prove, too. I can assure you that if I would have been 25 years younger, that incident would have ended VERY differently.’ That’s how young kids are getting shot over busted taillights, BASIA RYN  It’s out of control. We’ve got to stop making excuses for people, and reign this stuff back in. That’s where I think Trump bay be a bit out of touch about how serious some of these issues are – at least based on some of the antics I’ve seen.

Rita:  
“Definitely. I think that, regardless of political affiliation, anyone who is paying attention is saddened by the way we seem to have taken so many steps back in this country. Larry and I talk about this all the time. Worsening racial relations are a symptom, not the problem. The problem is much deeper. We’ve lost respect for our fellow man. If we’re living in the so-called “information age,” it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. We seem to be drowning information, but starving for knowledge. We’ve somehow managed to let ignorance and fear drive our decisions, and politicians and the media feed off this like piranhas. That’s one of the reasons Larry and I founded the nonprofit organization, “Game Changers Worldwide.” One of the things we want to do is get young boys of all ethnicities together in after-school programs and summer camps. There, we’ll encourage them to use the time-honored principles of mutual respect and teamwork you learn through football to solve other challenges in life. Through education, leadership development and economic empowerment, we’ll show them how they can change their own game of life for the better – not alone, but together, drawing on one another’s strengths.”

Basia:
So in closing, do you have any thoughts you want to share about how those who have been feeling disenfranchised can cope with their disappointment about the election, and move on?

Larry:
“If there’s one thing you learn as a professional football player, it’s how to cope with loss – especially when you play for some of the teams I’ve played for [Laughter]. Despite your individual best effort, the outcome often doesn’t end up exactly as you’d like. But you can’t let that defeat you. After any good dog fight – and this election was definitely a dog fight – you’re entitled to a day to lick your wounds. Anything more than that is counterproductive. You need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. I thought President Obama’s message about a smooth transition was a good one. At this point, continued mud-slinging doesn’t do anyone any good. Whether things go your way or not, you always have a choice. You can be part of the solution, or part of the problem. We need to unite. The democratic process depends on our ability to unite.

Rita:
“I hear Michael Moore is making a documentary about how the “fix was in” on this election. I know that’s how some people choose to express their dissatisfaction, but I’m not sure it really gets us anywhere. It’s like being in the middle of a lake, tired and far from land, and deciding to spend your energy describing the water, instead of swimming to shore. We live in a great country – made great because we don’t give up every time things don’t go our way. There’s no crying in football…or baseball either, right? [Laughter] There shouldn’t be any in politics either – especially not from our so-called leaders.”

Larry:
“One last thought, Basia I had a coach who used to say, ‘Let what you do speak so loudly, that I can’t even hear what you’re saying.’ I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m tired of all this bickering back and forth, and am glad the election is over. Enough talk. Football players who run their mouths are seldom the ones out there on the field doing anything. As a player, when you mature to the point where you can take all that energy you would have spent talking smack, roll it up in a ball, and throw it back into your game, you’re doing something. That’s what anyone who isn’t happy about the results of this election must do.

Basia:
Well thank you both for your thoughts. Always a pleasure. And good luck with Game Changers Worldwide. I know you two have been helping other former players with their charitable work for some time, but I’m glad to see that you’re charting your own course now. I think you’re getting to the heart of a lot of tough issues, and trying to solve them through tactics you’ve both seen work well in sports and in business. I look forward to hearing more about your progress as time goes on.

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