Football, like life, is a game of inches.
Any Given Sunday wasn't the best sports movie that has ever been made. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't legendary and most of you probably haven't even seen it.
The movie might have been just barely above average, but there is a moment that is absolutely legendary. In this movie, Al Pacino plays the role of Coach Anthony D'Amato. Prior to the big game at the end of the movie, Pacino delivers one of the best - nay, the very best - motivational speech that has ever been given by any character in any sports movie ever. Seriously, folks, THE BEST there is.
"I don’t know what to say really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives, all comes down to today. Either we heal as a team, or we’re going to crumble, inch by inch, play by play, til we’re finished.
We’re in hell right now, gentlemen, believe me. And we can stay here, get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell, one inch at a time. Now I can’t do it for you. I’m too old. I look around, I see these young faces and I think, I mean, I made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make.
I pissed away all my money, believe it or not. I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me and lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror. You know, when you get old in life, things get taken from you. I mean, that’s part of life. But you only learn that, when you start losing stuff."
The preface of this speech feels a lot like Pacino is describing the mundane nature of life in 2022. Everyone hates each other. Everyone is out fighting for themselves. Everyone is mad at everyone else and they are determined to get rid of anyone who doesn't see the world exactly the way we do.
If each of us take the time to look inward, I think we all feel a lot like Pacino describes in the preface of this locker room speech. Maybe we haven't all thrown all of our money away or chased off our friends and family, but who among us can look in the mirror and not see at least some regret? At least some mistake that we have made?
I would venture to say that all of us have felt that to some degree. In fact, I am very confident that anyone reading this has felt that feeling at some point in their lives.
"Either we heal as a team, or we're going to crumble, inch-by-inch, play-by-play, until we're finished."
I can only speak for myself, but I would imagine the story I'm about to tell will resonate with at least some of you.
A few weeks ago, work came crashing down around me. An employee abruptly exited my team and the things this person was holding up came tumbling down immediately. Now, people leave jobs all the time, but this kind of exit brought an additional amount of 'crashing' that most exits don't leave. The burden fell to me to get it fixed. It tooks weeks to unravel the nonsense and more weeks to reassemble things the right way.
Along the way, there were land mines of problems that kept popping up along the way. Lost customers, loss of revenue, and operational issues suddenly made an appearance for the first time in years.
It was tough. I felt alone. I felt overwhelmed. I felt unqualified. Every day was taxing. When I came home, I was short with my family and I was distant as a husband and father. It was an excruciatingly long month or so.
"You find out life’s this game of inches. So is football because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half second, too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second"
Strange as it sounds, these wise words from Al Pacino rang true to me over the last couple of weeks. Inches. The difference between making my job a happy workplace and a miserable workplace was just inches. A few inches to one direction and the issues that were plaguing my workday would have been completely avoided. A few seconds to breathe would have avoided the need for a few apologies to be given to my children after I snapped at them.
Inches. The difference between success and failure was just a few inches, and I needed that reminder.
I needed the next reminder even more.
"On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch because we know when we add up all those inches, that’s going to make the fucking difference between winning and losing, between living and dying.
I’ll tell you this, in any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die, who’s going to win that inch. And I know if I’m going to have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch because that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face. Now I can’t make you do it. You got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes."
I was reminded that I can look into the eyes of people around me and know that they are willing to claw for inches with me. My wife. My kids. My family. My friends at work. My friends. This very GEHB community that we're all apart of. All of these people would be willing to fight with me, all I needed to do was look them in the eyes, trust them, and get to work alongside them.
So, that's what I did. I started fighting, clawing, and tearing myself apart for those extra inches worth of fight. And, slowly but surely, the long, dreary days started to get a little better - progress was coming.
"Now I think you’re going to see a guy who will go that inch with you. You’re going to see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you’re going to do the same for him. That’s a team, gentlemen. And either we heal now as a team or we will die as individuals. That’s football, guys."
Folks, we need each other.
My experience over the last few weeks isn't unique - I needed to find my own fight, but I also needed some people to get into the mud and fight with me.
I see that all around us. We aren't going to be able to fix the entire world here at Give 'Em Hell, Brigham - not by a long shot - but we can do better than we are right now. We can work harder to lift each other up. We can dig a little deeper to find common ground and love for each other. We can give a little bit more effort to help someone else gain an extra inch in their lives.
That's what football does. As this season approaches and BYU is about to kick off their season, may we each fight a little harder for our fellow fans to gain extra inches in our lives. BYU football brings people together. GEHB allows people to connect with one another from everywhere across the country. It gives us a chance to build relationships with people that we might not otherwise have a relationship with. That opportunity allows each of us a chance to get into the trenches and help lift someone up.
Last season, there were dozens of people who reached out to me and thanked me for the GEHB community. I humbly accepted the compliment but knew that it had nothing to do with me, but rather, it had everything to do with us.
The community has grown in the last year. There have been disagreements throughout the offseason - about football and otherwise - and there have been new faces who have expressed concern about the future of our community. How can we maintain the same level of camaraderie that we had a year ago while the community continues to grow?
Effort, that's how. Fight. Doing everything we can do create extra inches of success in our lives. That's how.
"That’s all it is. Now, what are you going to do?"