Tue. Apr 23rd, 2019

If You Aren’t A Team Player You Aren’t A Leader

“Sports radio is a far cry from war, but that doesn’t mean similar concepts don’t apply to both. You need to fight for the people next to you — whether it’s in a foxhole or on a radio show — not against them.”

There is a big difference between being a good player and being a good teammate. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown both excel as players. They’ve received a lot of attention for their production and impressive talent. They both lack a very important skill though; the ability to make the people around them shine brighter.

Rodgers was featured in a detailed article written by Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne last week. It didn’t exactly make Rodgers look like the greatest ally. He was described by some former teammates as a self-entitled quarterback, a bad leader, and an ultrasensitive source of toxicity. One ex-Packers scout called Rodgers an arrogant quarterback quick to blame everyone but himself.

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The two-time MVP defended himself on ESPN Milwaukee radio on Monday. “This was a smear attack by a writer looking to advance his career talking with mostly irrelevant, bitter players who all have an agenda whether they’re advancing their own careers or just trying to stir old stuff up,” Rodgers said.

He never said the descriptions were wrong. Rodgers just tried to discredit the people making those harsh statements. This is straight from the Misdirection 101 handbook.

Many teammates immediately came to the defense of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz when a critical piece was written about him on PhillyVoice in January. Where are the Packers players and staff members rushing to the defense of Rodgers? There is just simply too much smoke for there not to be fire — cutting off his family in 2014, freezing out teammates, passive-aggressive behavior. It’s all made up and a bunch of lies?

No. The truth is that Rodgers is an awesome player, but a rotten leader.

Antonio Brown knows a thing or two about being a terrible leader himself. The seven-time Pro Bowler threw his former teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster, under the bus in a major way. Brown posted a tweet on Sunday saying that Smith-Schuster fumbled away the Steelers playoff chances in a Week 16 loss to the Saints last year.

He took it a step further on Monday when Brown shared a 2015 direct message from Smith-Schuster who was simply asking Brown for advice on how to improve. That’s low. 

This is incredibly petty behavior. Brown is on a new team with a fancy new contract and he’s still resorting to tactics like this? Things are actually great for Brown right now, yet he’s lambasting another ex-teammate. It makes me wonder how Brown will handle things when he hits a few rough patches in Oakland. Good luck with that, Raider Nation.

I bring up these examples because there are so many parallels with sports radio. Every sports talk show is in constant competition. Sometimes the competition isn’t with other radio stations; it’s with the people that work on the same show.

Let’s face it; we’re all fighting for attention. Some hosts will stoop to low levels in an effort to get more of the limelight, even at the expense of the people on their own show.

Trust is mandatory when it comes to relationships. A sports radio show is a different type of connection, but make no mistake — it’s also a relationship. Everybody on the show needs to know that you have their back, and they have yours. If trust isn’t established — or even worse, if co-workers are undercutting each other in an effort to get more attention — that show is doomed.

The Seattle Seahawks used to have a pregame chant in the peak Legion of Boom years. Richard Sherman would ask, “Who’s got my back?” The rest of the defensive backs standing in a circle would reply, “I’ve got your back.” They didn’t say, “Well, I’ve mostly got your back, except when I’m not getting noticed enough, then I might undercut you, but you’re still my guy, kinda.” You either have your teammates’ back, or you don’t. There’s no in-between.

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There is a great scene toward the end of Black Hawk Down. The movie depicts a 1993 US military mission in Somalia. Eric Bana plays the character Hoot. Hoot describes why he fights so hard as a soldier by simply saying, “It’s about the men next to you.”

Sports radio is a far cry from war, but that doesn’t mean similar concepts don’t apply to both. You need to fight for the people next to you — whether it’s in a foxhole or on a radio show — not against them.

Oregon Ducks guard Sabrina Ionescu might’ve been the #1 overall pick in Wednesday’s WNBA Draft. However, she announced on Saturday night that she would be returning to Oregon for her senior season. Ionescu wrote on The Players’ Tribune, “I won’t predict exactly how far we’re going to go, but I’ll just say this. We have unfinished business. We’re building something here in Eugene. We’re building something — together — that’s going to last for a long time after we’ve all graduated.”

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Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is in no rush to leave Portland either while only thinking of himself. “When my career is over … I’m going to know the people who knew I was solid with them — regardless if it was at the top or if I controlled all this stuff — that I did it the right way,” Lillard told Yahoo! Sports in February. “That I took people’s situations and their families and what could be into consideration before I just made a decision based off, ‘Alright, this is what would be best for me.’

The thinking of Lillard and Ionescu is very considerate. No, a player declaring early for the draft or joining a new franchise isn’t automatically selfish, but the ability to think beyond yourself will pay off somehow. I guarantee that you will be rewarded. Maybe it isn’t a national championship, an NBA title, or the best ratings in town.

Maybe it is.

Maybe it’s lifelong friendships, respect, and a good amount of success along the way. Whatever the case, doing the right thing will lead to good things.

Another portion of the Packers story on Bleacher Report mentions ex-Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. A personnel man said, “McCarthy wanted to be The Guy. He wanted to be The Reason [for the success].”

This just screams sports radio. Many people in the industry want the same attention; they want to be the focal point. This also isn’t automatically a bad thing, but it definitely can be depending on the methods used to get that notoriety.  

It takes talent to shine. It takes maturity and a selfless attitude to find ways of helping other people shine. The funny thing is that the more you highlight others, the more it actually highlights yourself as well.

Ask yourself this; do I spend more time trying to make myself stand out, or trying to highlight the people around me? If the truthful answer is, “Me 99%, them 1%,” you’ve got a lot of work to do.

Brown looks like a joke for trying to embarrass Smith-Schuster on social media the last two days. That’s exactly how you’ll look if you belittle others in an effort to prop yourself up. You will end up looking petty and childish.

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Look for ways to uplift the people around you. It’s one thing to be a good player. It’s quite another to be a good teammate.