For Washington Redskins, it's time to see who has pride
The Redskins lost to the Minnesota Vikings in a game that, had they won, would have kept their playoff heartbeat steady. Unfortunately, their hopes are now on life support. This team must now run the table to get into the postseason. It's not impossible, but I'm not sure how realistic it is.
Make no mistake, this team still has a chance to show some true character. To me it's not all about the playoffs, although sure it would be nice to see the team pushing for a postseason berth. But I believe it's very important to see which players have that intestinal fortitude to handle the most extreme and adverse situations.
I'm positive that every team that knows how to win had to learn valuable lessons along the way to becoming winners. If the Redskins play their hearts out the rest of the way and compete as though they know what direction they want this team to go in, then I can accept this first season under a new regime without a playoff appearance.
That said, the question in my mind is: Does this team feel that way? It's not easy to play your heart out week in and week out when the labor has losses attached to it. Often times the weather in November and December will convince guys that the effort is not worth it.
Many things start to play on a player's mind when the ultimate goal is on the brink of being dashed or already gone. What will you practice for if there is no Super Bowl in sight? What will you play for when a season with so much promise seems all but lost?
I tell you what I played for, because I know what these guys are going through right now. When all seemed lost and hopeless, I found motivation and comfort in knowing that in spite of the team's record, every practice and every game provided an opportunity to put the past in the past and get better right then and there.
There didn't have to be a playoff game attached or even a Super Bowl, but what I gained from still pushing on was the inner pride of knowing that the man that my father and mother raised was taught to never quit -- and so I didn't. Challenges will find all of us just as sure as the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening -- there's no way around it.
I remember the first loss I ever had playing football as a kid. I remembered crying so hard I was sobbing. One of my coaches, Coach Beary, was one of those mean coaches who was always screaming and threatening players. We all respected him because he pushed us to be good -- okay, I'm lying, we were all good because he scared us into being good.
But in this one moment he said something to me that I always carried with me from that point on. He asked me a question: Are you crying because we lost or are you crying because you felt you could've done better? Let's keep in mind I'm 9 years old at the time, and I said to him, "Both, I'm mad at both" and he said to me in his raspy voice: "You will be fine. You're one of the ones who care enough to cry, which means you care enough to work hard enough to try to not let it happen again." Then he walked away.
I always kept that moment in my memory because he was right. If a person cares enough about the outcome of what they are a part of, then they will continue to work to make sure the outcome is what they want it to be. Of course it doesn't always work out that way, but I'd be remiss if I didn't approach everything I do with that message in mind. I believe that if a person is to be an ultimate winner they must experience all of the ups and downs that go with competition. All of those experiences drive people to be better or show them their limitations.
This Redskins franchise undoubtedly has seen better days, but adversity has a way of shining a light on the ones who truly care. Those are the guys that championship teams are built with and those are the guys whom the Redskins must identify. Then get rid of the rest and continue that process until there are 53 men who only care about having enough pride to work through all conditions to be a winner.
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