Sun. May 26th, 2019

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

“If my sports radio career ended today, the first regret I’d have is that I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I should have.”

I was a host and program director in Fresno, California from 2006-’09. I’ll never forget something a fellow PD and friend, Greg Hoffman, said to me — “There will always be some type of BS wherever you go.”

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I was frustrated about something so minor that I don’t even remember what it was when he made that comment to me. Greg’s point was that it’s a waste of time to envision things being magically perfect at another job. There will always be some type of challenge or problem. You might as well make the most of where you currently are while you happen to be there.

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown is a lot like many people — he believes his next opportunity will be dramatically better than his previous gig. Often times in life, you’ll find that the grass isn’t nearly as green on the other side as you believed it would be. Even worse, there are many instances where the next situation is actually worse than the previous setup you thought was so bad.

I love what Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had to say about Brown last week. While Brown was in the process of forcing his way out from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Fitzgerald said, “I love AB. Mr. Big Chest is a good friend of mine, but I don’t think he’s going about it the right way, personally. To be able to play with an all-time quarterback like he’s able to play with, I don’t think he understands how good he has it. It can get tough out there.”

Fitzgerald nailed it. Life as a Pittsburgh Steeler was pretty good for Brown. The funny thing is that Brown didn’t see it that way leading up to the trade. He focused on the problems he was facing. Brown told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington that the owner and others in the organization didn’t know the names of his girlfriend, dad, or kids. He talked about Ben Roethlisberger not throwing him the ball in the first quarter last season against the Broncos. Brown even mentioned that he and Big Ben had only been to each other’s houses one time apiece. Gosh, such inhumane treatment in the Steel City.

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The funny thing is that a lot of people can relate to this type of thought process. It’s very easy to focus on all of the bad things about your current situation. The strange twist is that it’s also very easy to look back and reminisce much more positively later on. What sense does that make? We often obsess about the things we dislike in the moment, yet reflect back much more fondly about the same exact situation. This basically makes us crazy people.

I’ve fallen into this trap many times before. I’ve dwelled on challenges. At work — “How come that guy got the fill-in shift?” In a band — “Why is it like pulling teeth to find a good bassist?” At football practice — “It’d be nice if it wasn’t so hot out here and the left guard could block.”

The funny thing about no longer playing football or in a band is that I don’t ever think about those challenges anymore. I look back and remember all of the good times. It’s a much better approach to overlook the minor challenges in life and enjoy the good aspects while they’re happening — not just after the fact.

Antonio Brown didn’t enjoy himself fully while in Pittsburgh. The Steelers traded Brown for a measly return of 3rd– and 5th-round picks. They were also forced to swallow $21 million in dead money against their salary cap. $21 million! The Steelers could have just kept Brown, but they decided to deal him because he was such a pain in the rectum. There is absolutely no way that Brown, who was that big of a headache, enjoyed himself to the fullest extent in Pittsburgh.

Brown focused on the problems he was experiencing instead of the advantages he enjoyed. He had an all-time quarterback in Big Ben. He was putting up monster numbers while winning many games. The chemistry that Ben and AB developed over nine seasons can’t be replicated in one year with his new quarterback, Derek Carr.

Sure, Brown got a nice new contract that includes $30.125 million in guaranteed money. It’s not like he was going to make $5 bucks in Pittsburgh this year though. There was also a good chance he would’ve earned big money eventually after a reworked contract just like Big Ben is soon to get.

Look, my message isn’t to accept things you dislike, or to avoid fighting to make your life better. The thought is to make the most of your current situation without living in a make-believe world that things will automatically be much better elsewhere.

Brown’s numbers could drop in Oakland while the team loses more games than he’s used to. Maybe Raiders owner Mark Davis won’t know the name of Brown’s girlfriend either. Let’s not act like everything will be perfect now. A big part of this transition is simply exchanging old problems for new problems. Our lives work the same way, so avoid being consumed by your current challenges as if new obstacles won’t exist somewhere else.

Former Raiders tight end Todd Christensen said something on NFL Network’s America’s Game that always stuck with me. “My father had instructed me many years ago that there was only one sin and that was the sin of ingratitude,” Christensen said. “I didn’t want to be one of those people that was ungrateful.”

I hear people say, “You’ve got the greatest job ever. You get to sit around and talk sports all day.” It isn’t quite that simplistic. We don’t kick our feet up and sip lemonade all day. We put a lot of work into this occupation, but those people are right — this job is awesome. We get to cover sports, be creative, and have tons of fun along the way. Fixating on problems to the point where you lose sight of the upside is being ungrateful. That should never happen.

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If my sports radio career ended today, the first regret I’d have is that I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I should have. I focused more on obstacles and challenges instead of enjoying the great advantages. I refuse to make that mistake going forward. I would miss the sports radio business like crazy, so it doesn’t make sense to dwell on problems while overlooking the great benefits.

Find the balance of being grateful for what you have while fighting for things to be better. Antonio Brown didn’t find that balance. He dwelled on the imperfections in Pittsburgh much more than the positives. Don’t overlook the good aspects of your current situation while fantasizing about how much better things could be. Often times you’ll find that the grass is greener in your head than it is in reality.