just show me the baby, part one

At best, I have mixed feelings about the concept of hard work.

As a sportswriter, I’ve heard a thousand pseudo-sermons about the value of hard work. “We made it this far because of how hard we worked.” Or “we deserve to win because we put in the work.”

I don’t buy it. I think I speak for many sportswriters, when I say this is the worst kind of quote. It’s meaningless because the winner or the loser isn’t always a reflection of hard work. In fact, I would say it’s seldom a reflection of just work ethic. More often, sheer talent is the biggest factor. Sometimes a bad call or a bad break will decide who wins and who loses. Even in a closely matched, hard-fought contest in which nothing flukey happens, it would be difficult to pin the result solely on one team’s preparation.

I’ll go so far as to claim that hard work is the result of opportunity at least as often as the other way around.

On Sunday, I’ll be watching the Baylor versus SMU football game. Baylor, coming off a ten-win season in 2011 and possibly the feel-good story of college football at the moment, has plenty of motivation to work hard. The Bears are ascending, or at least they think they are and that’s a pretty good catalyst. Meanwhile, SMU won eight games last season, seven the season before that, eight in 2009 and the Mustangs have won bowl games two of the last three years. So SMU is also ascending. Given the tumultuous nature of college football conference realignment these days, it’s even conceivable that SMU could stake a claim to belonging in the Big 12 if the Mustangs could defeat Baylor. So SMU has tons of motivation to work hard.

All of that stated, Baylor will probably win by at least two touchdowns. And it won’t be because Baylor worked harder. It will be because college football is lopsided and teams in the Big 12 will almost always beat teams from whatever conference SMU is in this season.

If hard work were the key factor, the guys from SMU would actually have a huge advantage because they probably were just decent athletes who willed themselves to earn a spot on SMU’s team, while Baylor’s players probably had a significant jump start in the athleticism category.

Now that last statement is a pretty broad generalization and I only meant it in the most abstract sense. I’m sure the Bears are working extremely hard. I actually feel my brain slipping into one of those loops regarding the role of destiny and/or whether destiny actually exists.

But I’ma come back tomorrow with part two of this essay centered on my sophomore year of high school and Emmitt Smith.

Photo via the Roanoke Rampage.



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