Every Summer I count the days until college football arrives. Once the much anticipated season begins, I read articles, listen to podcasts, watch highlights, engage in football conversations and count the days until the next game. I’ve been this way since I was 7 years old when Auburn beat Alabama 17-16 in the first of several l̶u̶c̶k̶y̶ improbable Tiger wins in my lifetime. I cheer for my team when “we” win and when we lose. To prove my point, here is a picture of me and some of my buddies during our school’s not so glorious days.
During this era, while I was in college, I even mailed in a trick play to coach Ray Perkins that I thought would work against Auburn. He failed to reply to my correspondence, use the play, or win the game - and coincidentally left the program following the season under pressure from influential boosters (and from me).
Sometimes I feel guilty for spending too much time in front of the TV on fall Saturdays, losing my voice and occasionally my mind. But I have come to the point where I have been able to justify my obsession. Here are 16 ways college football can help you become a better person and feel ok about the games you watch. In the spirit of John Maxwell, these are my 16 Laws of College Football Excellence.
1. Law of Relationships - Football provides easy conversation starters with a lot of people – from elderly women wearing their colors at the grocery store to business leaders I’m hoping to connect with. I’ve even been known to say a “Go Dawgs," “Go Vols” or “O-H” to get a conversation started.
2. Law of Anger Management - It’s better to yell at the ref than to kick the dog (it’s a metaphor – I would never kick my dog).
3. Law of Priorities - It’s better to watch men compete on an athletic field than to watch The Bachelorette, or nearly anything else on TV.
4. Law of Distractions – We all need a break from the seriousness of life.
5. Law of Talent Acquisition – It’s true in business and it’s true on the football field - the team with the most talent usually wins. As one commentator famously said, “Jimmies and Joes are more important than x’s and o’s”. Take the time necessary to surround yourself with high quality people. And take the time to grow your own talent. In football, talent decreases with age; in life, it should increase.
6. Law of Effort – While talent may be king, effort is queen. Many an inferior team has won games with grit and determination.
7. Law of Decision Making – When it’s 4th and 2 some coaches go with their gut, others play it safe, and still others are apt to risk it all. Learning to make wise choices at crunch time can be the difference in winning and losing on the field and in life.
8. Law of Execution – Talent, effort and decision making find their fruition in execution. If even one teammate fails to do his job well the whole team is affected. Pay attention to details.
9. Law of Luck – At the end of the day you can have the talent, effort, decision making and execution, and still lose the game to dumb luck (see Auburn 1972, 2010, 2013). But, do these other things well enough and the game rarely will be decided by luck.
10. Law of Losing – Losing sucks, but when it happens learn from it. The truth is you can learn a lot more from losing than winning. Make every effort to win, but take every loss as a chance to get better. The best teams know how to lose.
11. Law of the Bench – Often teams are evaluated and predictions made based on the 22 players who start the game. Yet, the best teams are often those who have the most talented second units. Take the time to invest in others and build your bench.
12. Law of Coaching - I would trade my best player for the best coach any day. A great coach has a way of getting the best out of his players. It was said about legendary coach Bear Bryant, “He could take his'n and beat your'n or he could take your'n and beat his'n."
13. Law of Comparison – Andy Stanley has said there is no win in comparison. It’s true in football and it’s true in life. Play your game, lean into your strengths, be yourself, and you are a lot more likely to win.
14. Law of Perspective – I sometimes have to remind myself that the game I love is being played by a bunch of 20 year olds who are giving their best. It is just a game. Taking football and a lot of things in life too seriously says a lot about one’s character.
15. Law of Ethics – Illegal recruiting, payments, lies, cover ups. Stealing, fudging, cheating on taxes. Your sins will eventually find you out.
16. Law of Enemies – Let’s face it - it is fun to pull against people. It is fun in football and it’s fun in life. But on this law, life is better when we don’t take our cue from football. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” and that is good enough for me.
There you have it. Enjoy the season guilt free. And in the little free time you have left see if you can apply one or two of these laws to your own life. Good luck and Roll Tide!