The intangibles in sports matter more than you think
I recently watched a documentary produced by HBO called 24/7 Rangers/Flyers: Road to the Winter Classic. The intent of the documentary is to follow these two NHL teams around in their day-to-day duties showing a detailed behind the scene look at their lives. It’s a truly special opportunity to understand the life of a professional organization. Now, what I took away from the documentary might not be what HBO intended for me to take away.
The documentary is broken up into a series of episodes. Each episode lasts approximately 1 hour and gives the viewer a chance to step inside the life of a professional team and its players/coaches. After watching the first episode, it’s easy to realize just how priviledged these athletes are.
These athletes live the life. All they have to worry about is their performance. Everything else is taken care of for them. If HBO did a special like this on Barcelona or Real Madrid, I’m sure it’d be the same but better and more extravagant. I’m not suggesting this is an easy lifestyle, it’s just one I would enjoy deeply. I don’t question for a second that being a professional athlete is very demanding, both physically and menally, and requires a lot of discipline.
I wasn’t really interested in the lifestyle of these professionals. What really intrigued me, and what I was watching for the entire time, was how the leaders of these teams (captains and coaches) were fulflling their responsiblities. Half way through the first episode, the coach of the New York Rangers, John Tortarella, said something about the Rangers captain, Ryan Callahan, that really hit home with me.
“He’s not the flashy player you see in the highlight reels every night. It’s what he does night and night out – he has another gear. He understands the intangible. He respects the game; it’s something we’ve lost with our athletes.”
This for me sums up the perfect hockey player, and ultimately, the perfect player in any sport. As we’ve talked about in any of my previous posts, athletes are becoming more worried about themselves and less worried about the team they play for; the sport they play for; the fans they play for.
When Tortarella says that Callahan respects the game and it’s something thats becoming less apparent in the modern athlete, he’s right. Look at the world stage of soccer. There is no more team loyalty. Players are willing to flock to the team who will offer them more money. I can hear the voices of athletes already, I have to watch out for myself and my family. I agree, you do, but you have a professional duty to respect the spirit of the game. For me, that involves playing with passion and loyalty.
Players that have the intangible, that being a passion or a fire that you can’t measure in a weight room or that you can’t put on paper, are typically the ones that mean most to an organization. The reason is simple, the intangibles are what drive people. If you’re more driven than the next person, you’re more likely to succeed at whatever it is you’re chasing.