It’s never a bad thing to be busy in business. But when duty calls, it can sometimes mean having to reduce your energies in other areas. As you’ve likely noticed, I’ve been absent from my blog section for nearly two weeks. Although there have been numerous items to write about, I’m a big believer in producing quality content, not a quantity of content. As important as it is for me to be consistent as a writer, it’s even more critical that I satisfy and exceed the expectations of my clients, and lately we’ve had some heavy lifting to do.
If there’s a benefit to a short-term hiatus, it’s having an opportunity to detach yourself from the day to day grind because when you’re going full throttle and trying to crank out the best material of your lifetime, the constant pressure to produce it can cause you to throw in a few lemons when the world is waiting for limes. My preference is to contribute two to three pieces per week, but I also want them to be insightful and memorable, not forgettable content.
That leads me to the focus of today’s piece – creating memorable moments by being authentic!
Over the weekend, sports fans were treated to numerous stories that had the potential to be memorable. But there were two specific examples that stood out to me and I’m going to share with you why they did.
First, Brett Favre’s emotional speech at the NFL Hall of Fame on Saturday night was as good as it gets. If you didn’t watch it, stop what you’re doing and go check it out. Here’s the link.
For nearly thirty seven minutes, all eyes and ears in Canton, Ohio and around the world on television listened to what the Hall of Fame quarterback had to say. He was authentic, honest, funny, warm, and he told stories that made it easy to connect with him.
If there’s one thing I’ve loved about Brett Favre throughout his entire career it’s that he presents himself as a normal guy who’s simply having fun playing the game of football. No matter how much money or fame came Brett’s way, you still had this mental image of him as an everyday guy who just happened to be the ultimate gunslinger. On Sunday’s he played with the passion of a child, and good or bad, he left it all on the field. It didn’t matter how hurt he was or how bad his season was going, when game time began, you knew #4 was going to give you his best.
That’s not to suggest that he can’t be clever and calculated when need be. When Favre was trying to get away from the Packers to join an NFC North rival he used the media every step of the way to help further his position. He wasn’t very forthcoming either during the whole Jenn Sterger drama.
But, when you listen to the Packers legend share his emotional story about trying to constantly prove himself to a father who was never satisfied, or when you hear him express his gratitude to Raider Nation for being supportive and forgetting about battlelines for a few hours while he played a game to honor his father, those are real feelings and emotions. His candor, and straight from the heart speech reminded us all again why we adjusted our schedules every week to watch him play for two decades.
Many will debate Brett’s place among the great quarterbacks in NFL history, but few will argue that Favre wasn’t authentic and himself from the start of his career to that final speech in Canton on Saturday night.
On the other hand, there was Alex Rodriguez’s “retirement” press conference on Sunday. Regardless of his PED history, A-Rod is still one of the greatest baseball players to ever step foot on the diamond. It’s hard to argue against his career accomplishments, but over the next few years I suspect many will have ongoing debates about whether or not he belongs in Cooperstown.
One area where there should be no debate is when it comes to his place in the Hall of Shame for his consistent inability to be authentic.
Take for example Sunday’s press conference. A-Rod started it off by telling people that the end of the line is difficult for athletes to accept but they all must face that reality at some point. He sounded honest, genuine, and humbled. It made you want to root for him.
He thanked the Steinbrenner family, the Yankees organization, explained why it was important for him to play on Friday in front of his family one last time, and everything sounded sincere. But the more he continued to speak, and once the room began to ask questions, it was clear that Alex was putting on an act.
The Yankees superstar sat at the podium trying to convince knowledgeable media members that he was excited about an opportunity to become an advisor to the franchise’s young players in the minor leagues starting next February. He smiled, tried to be the good soldier, but once the subject of chasing home run #700 came up, and the media bloodhounds asked who made the call to change his status with the franchise, it was clear that Alex wasn’t on board with the decision of Yankees Owner Hal Steinbrenner.
When reporters asked if the team told him they were going to release him, he said it never reached that point. Instead he tried to spin this tale of a newly created position inside the organization which he was excited about. A-Rod couldn’t face the music and acknowledge what everyone in the room already knew, that he was being forced out, and the team would continue to pay him not to perform for them.
He attempted to put on a fake smile, and express how much he loves working with the youth, while refusing to confirm that he would never play baseball again. He talked out of both sides of his mouth and if you read between the lines, it was clear that his final game with the Yankees may be on Friday August 12th, but if someone came calling, he’d be rushing to answer the telephone.
In the matter of fifteen minutes, I went from feeling bad for A-Rod to remembering why I’ve never been able to embrace him despite being a lifelong Yankees fan. Nobody was looking for him to call out the organization and risk losing millions of dollars, but a little honesty goes a long ways.
All he had to say was: “The Yankees are going in a new direction, and I’m not getting any younger. They need to evaluate their younger talent and my age and play are standing in the way of that progress, so we’ve reached an agreement to have me finish my career as a player for the Yankees this Friday. As you’re aware I do have one year remaining on my contract and I will stay involved in baseball in 2017. Fortunately, the Steinbrenner family have offered me an opportunity to be involved in the organization as a special advisor. I do want to get further involved as a mentor to younger players in the future, and that could be next year, but I still have a desire to play. Whether I do or not depend on the other twenty nine organizations. Regardless of what happens, I love this organization, city and its fans, and I will always be a part of the Yankees family”.
This tells people – the organization is committed to a youth movement, wishes to move on without Alex, but his desire to play remains strong, and he has a contract which he isn’t walking away from. It shows gratitude to the organization for creating a position for him next year, acknowledges the fans and the city he plays in, and makes it clear that he’s open for business if anyone is interested.
I’ve appreciated guys like Favre, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken Jr. and George Brett because not only were they great on the field, but off of it they conducted themselves in a classy, honest and authentic manner. If they didn’t want to address something, they’d plead no comment or walk away. They didn’t try to insult the intelligence of their fans or the men and women covering them! That isn’t to suggest that they were perfect, but nine times out of ten, they handled things right, and made you want to believe in them.
Unfortunately, this is what Alex has failed to understand. His TV analyst work was on the money last post-season. His performance on the field, his knowledge of the game, and his colorful personality should all be huge assets. But until he speaks from the heart, and stops trying to satisfy a corporate narrative, he’ll always be viewed differently from those other superstars.
As it applies to sports radio, there’s one simple lesson to learn from this – always be yourself. Who you are in real life, is who the audience should hear on the airwaves. Give a maximum effort every time you broadcast and allow your passion for your craft to be felt by the audience.
You can fabricate it a little and throw in a few theatrics to make the presentation more colorful and mysterious, but listeners should be treated to a personality who is authentic, honest and at peace with who they are.
What I learned this past weekend is that Brett Favre certainly is. I’m not sure Alex Rodriguez can say the same.